New Zealand’s Ben Smith will face All Blacks vs Wallabies in two Tests at the start of the Rugby Championship next month but thereafter play no more rugby until next season, his agent told local media on Wednesday.The 31-year-old All Blacks vice-captain, widely regarded as one of the best fullbacks in the world, negotiated a sabbatical into his new contract in February and will be unavailable for eight internationals.
The break is aimed at ensuring Smith reaches the 2019 World Cup in good shape and follows a precedent set by Richie McCaw and Dan Carter, who both had sabbaticals between the 2011 and 2015 World Cups.
“Contractually he’s on sabbatical now,” his agent Warren Alcock told the New Zealand Herald.
“He has decided to make himself available for the two Bledisloe games because he has missed some rugby this year.“We built in quite a significant sabbatical for him because to get him through to 2019 we felt that’s what he was going to need physically and mentally.”Smith missed the last two Tests against the British and Irish Lions because of what were initially thought to be concussion symptoms but later discovered to be caused by an inner-ear problem.“What has changed is he was injured and had a reasonable break out of Super Rugby and missed a couple of Lions games so he’s reassessed things and decided he was keen to be available for the next two games and then he’ll take his sabbatical,” added Alcock.Smith had no intention of following fly-half Carter by using his sabbatical to take up a lucrative contract in Europe, he said.“It’s always been a non-playing sabbatical with the intention of allowing his body a break,” added Alcock.“He’s a player that pretty much plays every minute of Super Rugby with the Highlanders and with the All Blacks he plays high minutes as well.”Smith will miss four Rugby Championship Tests against South Africa and Argentina, the third Bledisloe Cup clash with the Wallabies in Brisbane on 21 October and Tests against France, Scotland and Wales on the end of year tour.In a sight to make All Blacks fans weep, Brad Thorn is helping out at the Wallabies camp.
The 59-test All Black was filmed wearing Australian rugby gear and and lending a hand on Monday in Newcastle as Michael Cheika’s Australia squad prepare for their Bledisloe Cup opener on August 19 in Sydney.
Of course, the Mosgiel-born Thorn is a cross-code trans-Tasman international, having been raised from the age of eight in Queensland and representing Australia’s rugby league team eight times.Also at the camp would be Australian skills coach Mick Byrne, who was All Blacks skills coach for their 2011 and 2015 World Cup wins before joining Australia last year. The All Blacks were challenged all over the park in three tests, are battle hardened, and have blooded several new talents in Rieko Ioane, Ngani Laumape and Jordie Barrett. They will be determined to create and finish many more opportunities than they did against the Lions. All Blacks vs Wallabies Live Stream
The Wallabies, by contrast, beat Fiji and Italy and suffered the indignation of losing to Scotland in their June series. Added to that, the Force and Rebels Super Rugby franchises face an extremely uncertain future, the players from those clubs in an almost constant state of limbo.
There is also the not insignificant matter of the Spygate controversy to consider, a scandal that blew up in the faces of both camps, plus that of World Rugby’s, the last time the All Blacks were in Sydney.All Blacks security consultant Adrian Gard, an Australian who had been involved with the team for 12 years, pleaded not guilty in court earlier this year after a listening device was found in the All Blacks’ team room last August.The case is pending and is likely to cast a dark shadow over the week, and following the treatment at the hands of the New Zealand media that Wallabies coach Michael Cheika received last year, the Aussie press spotlight on Hansen and his team is likely to be intense.Hansen will have questions to consider in the interim, including why the ball skills of many of his players failed under the heat applied by the Lions’ defence when that is normally a strength of the All Blacks, Beauden Barrett’s goalkicking – and we learned the day after the Eden Park draw that the No10 is working through a “technical” issue – and the make-up of his best midfield.Yup, the very nature of Twitter is that it is short and to the point, but even by those standards, the tweet from the Maitland Mumbler last Saturday afternoon was … pointed.
But the spectre of what might be about to happen?
You know it and I know it, Mumbler.
While it is one thing to have lost and struggled against lesser teams, now looming on the horizon are the mighty All Blacks. See, straight after the Wallabies fell over the line against Italy, we tuned in to see the New Zealanders take on a worthy British and Irish Lions side and stomp them, romp them, bash them, smash them, eat them, BEAT them … 30-15.In the second half, particularly, it was like seeing a raging All Black Sea, at King Tide, relentlessly crashing on a receding red shore. The Lions were brave, they were skilled, they never gave up, but nothing could stop the wave after wave after wave of All Blacks crashing the ball into them, going over for try after try.
And us Wallabies supporters, Mumbler?
We were thinking the obvious. We were thinking that if our blokes are struggling against Italy, and have already lost to a Scottish side denuded of its Lions, just what will the All Blacks do to us? We were thinking that, given the Wallabies haven’t won a Bledisloe series in a decade-and-a-half, and that no Australian provincial sides have beaten a Kiwi side this year, given all the results above, it is starting to look like a perfect storm heading our way, an All Blacks side at an all-time high, hitting us while we are at an all-time low. People have been talking of a 40-point drubbing, a 50-point drubbing, and worse!
We were wondering Mumbler, in short, if you might move over, as it actually might be easier to be a Knights supporter?At least however, coach Michael Cheika still believes.”If I don’t back them, then what is there?” he told Fairfax Media’s Tom Decent on Monday. “We must have the ambition. I believe it. That’s where it’s got to start hasn’t it? I don’t blame people based on what’s happened this year overall, whether it be in Super Rugby or in our games here. I don’t blame people if they wouldn’t believe in us. We’ve got to show it on the field and we will.”And he’s right. The last time a miracle that big happened, a huge star appeared in the east. But there really is some chance, if we take our chances. Which brings me to my point.Cheika will likely have already watched the first Lions Test five times, but even on one viewing, one thing is obvious. The only hope for the Wallabies is to pick a side that actually can compete with them in the set-pieces and rolling mauls. His starting point has to be to get a scrum that will hold and a lineout that will hold its own. In the forwards, select conservatively so that, whatever else, we will get some ball.
And then pick the wildcards in the backs! Take our chances. Pick the most quixotic talents we’ve got in the hope that, on the day, the chemistry will take hold, beat their physics, pull off some poetry in motion, and make HISTORY! All Blacks vs Wallabies