Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Rugby: Smith to stay in New Zealand

Don't expect to see Conrad Smith wearing anything other than black and yellow next year. Photo / Greg Bowker.
Don't expect to see Conrad Smith wearing anything other than black and yellow next year. Photo / Greg Bowker.

Don't expect to see Conrad Smith wearing anything other than black and yellow next year.

The long-time Hurricanes centre doesn't have any plans to head offshore next season and is all but guaranteed to pen a new deal to keep him in New Zealand when his contract expires at season's end.

The 30-year-old, who debuted for Wellington in 2003 and the Hurricanes and All Blacks in 2004, said when he was a youngster growing up in Taranaki he never wanted to play in Europe and, like Richie McCaw, is strongly committed to New Zealand rugby and the All Blacks.

He is one of the best centres in world rugby, rarely letting his standards slip, and could command a good salary overseas.

"I've always said I knew when I was growing up as a kid I had no aspirations of playing Heineken Cup," he said. "That hasn't changed and I want to play for the Hurricanes and I want to play for the All Blacks and it's still the thing that drives me."

The Francis Douglas Memorial College old boy, who is captaining the Hurricanes for the first time this season, said he hadn't gone through the fine print yet but would like to have things signed off in the near future.

"I probably should be thinking about it now. I want to clear it away before it gets too close to the end of the year and I have started talking to the NZRU and they're pretty good about those things. They like to back off you a little bit when you're during competition so you just use the chances in between."

Since his international debut in 2004, Smith has racked up 55 tests and scored 21 tries. He has also played 43 times for Wellington and has more than 70 appearances for the Hurricanes to his name.

He said most All Blacks had an idea of what they could command for a European or Japanese offer but Smith has shown little interest in the past.

"It's above board in the way they deal with it," he said. "You've got to put yourself out there and clubs feel around, they ask your agent if you're interested but I've always told the guys that look after me I'm not that keen so they back off. They don't come in cloak and daggers and offer better deals so that's how I've always done it."

Smith's impending retention will be a great boost for Hurricanes fans as he is the linchpin in a largely rookie backline who have performed above expectations this season.

They will hope their side can notch their sixth win of the season in Dunedin tomorrow night against a Highlanders outfit sitting one place above them on the New Zealand conference.

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