All Blacks lock in Aaron Smith for next Rugby World Cup

All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith has re-signed with New Zealand Rugby through to the 2023 World Cup in France.

Smith, the most capped New Zealand No.9 of all-time with 97 Test appearances, will also remain with his long-time provincial side the Highlanders as part of his contract extension.

“Last year was a tough one for sport, but hopefully we’ll soon see the world rugby calendar start to take shape and there’ll be plenty of exciting, new challenges to look forward to,” the 32-year-old said in a New Zealand Rugby release on Tuesday.

Smith was starting halfback in the All Blacks’ 2015 World Cup final win over Australia at Twickenham and during their run to the semi-finals in Japan last year.

All Blacks coach Ian Foster hailed Smith’s recommitment.

“He is so instrumental in the way we play the game and is such a vital cog for us, both on and off the field, so this is fantastic news,” Foster said.

Smith played his 151st match with the Highlanders in New Zealand’s domestic Super Rugby Aotearoa competition over the weekend and is only two games away from reaching fellow All Black Ben Smith’s record (153) at the club.

“As co-captain, ‘Nug’ is a huge part of this team,” Highlanders coach Tony Brown said.

“He continues to be world class and works extremely hard to maintain it.

“That hard work and professionalism is a fantastic example to the rest of the team, particularly the young fellows coming into the team.”

© Reuters

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