Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Unusual exit for Smith

Conrad Smith. Photo / Getty Images
Conrad Smith. Photo / Getty Images

When Conrad Smith wandered off Suncorp Stadium it was an unusual exit for the All Black centre.

He is rarely replaced but was pulled in the 51st minute of the unsatisfactory stalemate with the Wallabies.

Nothing physical seemed to be amiss with Smith but his performance had been patchy and his involvement far less than his usual industry.

When he sat down on the sideline, team doctor Deb Robinson seemed to be most concerned about an eye injury.

Smith missed he first two contests with the Wallabies in the Rugby Championship because of problems with a detached retina.

He had surgery to repair his eye and was not allowed to play any contact sport for about six weeks as his eye healed.

Since then Smith has worked through tests against the Springboks and Argentina and shown some solid form.

But his work yesterday in Brisbane, like a number of his teammates, was strangely muted.

The lack of continuity meant Smith was disconnected to the test for long periods before his surprise exit.

There was no mention of any problem in the post-match wash up from the All Black coaching staff.

Often Smith is delivered for comments after matches but he was not sighted in the media throngs either.

His departure may have been nothing other than the coaches trying to ignite some spark which was lacking from the All Blacks for much of the test.

They also benched Ma'a Nonu in search of some late sting.

Putting Aaron Cruden on the park and shifting Daniel Carter to second with Ben Smith in at centre delivered some different attack but the Wallabies were able to hold on for the draw that few expected in this final Southern Hemisphere clash of the season.

The All Blacks disperse now with the 32-strong touring squad for the trip to Scotland, Italy, Wales and England due to be announced on October 29.

- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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