All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith has committed to four more years with New Zealand rugby.
World-class No.9 Aaron Smith joins a small group to commit through the 2019 World Cup, saying he has plenty more to achieve for the All Blacks and for Super Rugby champions the Highlanders.
Smith has become an integral part of the All Blacks fast-paced style in 41 Tests since making his debut against Ireland in June 2012, their first outing after the 2011 World Cup triumph.
Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph says the diminutive 26-year-old sets the tone for the teams he represents at Test and Super Rugby level with a high fitness level and a bullet pass.
His methods are a departure from the mainly bigger, more combative All Blacks halfbacks of previous seasons.
“Since I have known Aaron, he has blossomed into one of the best halfbacks I have seen,” Joseph said.
“In a sense he is redefining the halfback role by the way he plays, and you know players like that don’t come along that often.”
Smith was the heartbeat of a Highlanders team who claimed their maiden Super Rugby title this year and is set to play a key role at the World Cup starting in England in September.
The Feilding-born No.9 said major goals also lie beyond this year.
“Knowing I’m contracted for the next four years allows me to focus on my rugby and there are some exciting challenges ahead for the All Blacks which I hope to be part of,” he said.
“Dunedin is my home and I wouldn’t want to play my Super Rugby anywhere else.”
Smith joins All Blacks teammates Julian Savea, Brodie Retallick and Dane Coles on four-year New Zealand Rugby deals.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is delighted another key cog of his team hasn’t joined the sizeable group who have signed offshore contracts this year.
Smith remains contracted at provincial level to Manawatu, who he first represented as a 19-year-old in 2008.
LONG-TERM ALL BLACKS
2019 – Julian Savea, Aaron Smith, Brodie Retallick, Dane Coles
2018 – Jerome Kaino, Wyatt Crockett
2017 – Ben Smith, Israel Dagg, Nehe Milner Skudder, Cory Jane, Malakai Fekitoa, Ryan Crotty, Aaron Cruden, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Kieran Read, Sam Cane, Steven Luatua, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks, Charlie Faumuina, Nepo Laulala