Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Faster the better for new boy Smith

Far from finding the pace of his first test tough to handle, halfback Aaron Smith said he would like to play the game at an even quicker tempo. Photo / Getty Images.
Far from finding the pace of his first test tough to handle, halfback Aaron Smith said he would like to play the game at an even quicker tempo. Photo / Getty Images.

Far from finding the pace of his first test tough to handle, halfback Aaron Smith said he would like to play the game at an even quicker tempo.

In comments which would probably gladden new coach Steve Hansen's heart even more, Smith, who was selected due to his crisp pass and speed of thought and hand, said the faster the better for him.

"I really enjoyed the pace of it at times," the 23-year-old Highlander said after the All Blacks' 42-10 win over Ireland at Eden Park. "And obviously at other times it was a bit slower so I'll definitely be keen for faster ball. It would be cool to speed the game up even more.

"At halfback I set the tone. Ireland were really good at slowing down our ball at certain points there, that was disappointing for us, we were pretty inaccurate at the ruck."

Hansen today (Sunday) said he was confident that Smith, who at 1.71m and 85kg is easily the smallest in the squad, could cope at the next level.

"If he could cope with the physicality, and he started showing us he could, then he had the game to play test rugby," Hansen said. "If you've got a halfback who can clear the ball as quickly as he can - and that's not being disrespectful to any other halfback - he's just a bit of a freak in that area. We haven't had one like that since Graeme Bachop."

Even so, for Smith, game day dragged painfully. "It was probably the longest day of my life so far."

But, having done what he was selected to do - Dan Carter appeared to relish the extra time Smith gave him - he can justifiably look back on a job well done first up. The haka also held a special place for the former New Zealand Maori player.

"I always got a tingle up my neck when I watched the haka when I was a bit younger. To be a part of that was pretty surreal. I'm pretty pumped, I'll be able to watch that and for once it will be me doing the haka ... it was a proud moment."

Hansen said he is unlikely to change things too much for the second test in Christchurch which means Smith could get another start, but the weather conditions could play a part in that thinking.

"One of the reasons we picked these two halfbacks [Smith and Piri Weepu] is they complement each other with their skill sets," Hansen said. "Obviously Piri's game is very strong when it's that physical contest up front and the weather conditions sometimes make them like that."

- APNZ

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n3 at 31 Aug 2014 00:25:38 Processing Time: 532ms