Ben Smith (rugby union)
Benjamin Robert Smith (born 1 June 1986) is a New Zealand rugby union player, currently representing Pau in the French Top 14. He formerly played for the Highlanders in the Super Rugby competition and for Otago in the ITM Cup.
Smith during a match against Waratahs, February 2016
|Full name||Benjamin Robert Smith|
|Date of birth||1 June 1986|
|Place of birth||Dunedin, New Zealand|
|Height||186 cm (6 ft 1 in)|
|Weight||93 kg (205 lb; 14 st 9 lb)|
|School||King's High School|
|Rugby union career|
Smith made his international debut for New Zealand in 2009, playing 84 tests from then until the 2019 Rugby World Cup. He was a key member of the 2015 Rugby World Cup-winning team. Smith was vice-captain of the All Blacks from 2016-2017 and captained the team once, against Samoa in 2017. He scored 39 tries for New Zealand throughout his international career, placing him amongst the all-time leading try scorers.
Born in Dunedin and educated at King's High School, Smith progressed through the junior ranks in the city at his beloved Green Island Rugby Club (The Grizzlies) before making his Air New Zealand Cup debut in 2008. He was one of the break-out stars of the 2009 Air New Zealand Cup, scoring six tries for Otago on route earning a year-end selection for the New Zealand national team (All Blacks). In the 2010 ITM Cup, however, he struggled to make the same impact as Otago endured a nightmare season and bottom-of-the-table finish, while Smith missed several matches while at the Commonwealth Games in India.
Smith was selected to the Highlanders squad for the 2009 Super 14 season  In 2010, Smith started every Highlander game, and scored two tries for the season. He played mainly on the wing, and earned one start at fullback while Israel Dagg was out injured.
Shifted back to his preferred position of fullback for the 2011 Super Rugby season, earned praise from coach Jamie Joseph and consideration for another All Blacks callup. He started every Highlander game for the third season running and added another two tries to his career total. In 2013 he continued as Highlanders fullback and was selected for the All Blacks to play on the wing against France. On 5 December 2013, Smith won the Super Rugby Player of the Year award for the 2013 Super Rugby season.
In May 2015 Smith played his 100th Super Rugby game against the Western Force.
In 2017, Smith played his 127th game for the Highlanders in their Round 15 22-25 loss to the Crusaders, equalling Anton Oliver's record for the most capped Highlander ever. Unfortunately, Smith was taken off the field early in the second half for a concussion test- which was failed, after tripping over All Blacks teammate Ryan Crotty.
In 2009 Smith was included in the 33-member All Blacks squad for the 2009 Autumn Internationals, ahead of veteran All Black winger Joe Rokocoko. Smith made his test debut for the All Blacks against Italy on 14 November 2009 at the San Siro, Milan, which the All Blacks won 20–6. He scored his first All Blacks try against the Barbarians on the last game of the tour which the Barbarians ran out winners 25–18 at Twickenham, London, on 5 December 2009.
Smith did not figure into All Black squads in 2010, but was selected for the rugby sevens squad which competed at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India, where he helped New Zealand to a gold medal finish.
Smith made ten test appearances for the All Blacks in 2012, eight of which were off the bench.
In June 2013, he played & featured in all 3 games against France in the French NZ Tour Series, on the right wing, with veteran Cory Jane ruled out due to injury. In the first game of the 3 Test Series at Auckland's Eden Park, he set up a try to Aaron Smith (in the 32nd minute) and was awarded man-of-the-match award. In the second game on 15 June at Christchurch's Rugby League Park, he scored a try in the 48th minute of the game. The final game of 3 Test Series, he again scored another in the 35th minute at New Plymouth's Yarrow Stadium. Smith would also form what would be a long-standing combination with fullback Israel Dagg during this series.
In August 2013, during the 2013 Rugby Championship, Smith scored 3 tries in the All Blacks 47–29 win against the Wallabies at Sydney's ANZ Stadium. The following week when the All Blacks faced the Wallabies at Wellington's Westpac Stadium, he scored 2 tries to help New Zealand win 27–16 and to retain the Bledisloe Cup.
In October 2013 following the close of the Rugby Championships, Smith was awarded with the record for the most tries in a Rugby Championship/Tri Nations series, scoring 8 tries in 6 matches. Smith continued this form into the end-of-year tests, scoring his eleventh test try of 2013 against Japan on 2 November that year, during a 54-6 win over the Japanese.
In 2014 Smith was named in the mid-year three-test series against England. Smith started on the right wing for the first test on 7 June 2014, in combination with Julian Savea on the left wing and Israel Dagg at fullback. Dagg was subbed off in the 54th minute due to injury, leaving Smith to start at fullback in the second test on 14 June 2014. Smith won Man of the Match in the second test of the series, a narrow 28-27 win, performing a try-saving tackle on English winger Manu Tuilagi and scoring a try in the 43rd minute.
Smith started at fullback in six of his 12 appearances for the All Blacks in 2014, with Dagg struggling with persistent injury.
On 30 August 2015, he was named as one of the 31 members of the New Zealand Rugby World Cup team. Smith was the only fullback selected in the squad, with Cory Jane and Israel Dagg dismissed for Smith's Highlanders team-mate Waisake Naholo.
Smith played in all seven of New Zealand's games at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, starting as fullback in all but one match (against Namibia, where he was substituted on for Colin Slade). He scored two tries in the competition, one against Namibia in their second pool match, and one against Tonga in their final pool game. He was awarded Man of the Match for his efforts in the semi-final against South Africa, which was won by a narrow 20-18.
In the final against Australia, he was yellow carded for a tip tackle, becoming the first player to receive a card in a Rugby World Cup Final. He returned to the pitch to help the All Blacks to a 34–17 victory, setting up replacement back Beauden Barrett for a try as the All Blacks became the first team ever to take back-to-back titles, as well as the first to win three Rugby World Cups.
In 2016, after the international or complete retirements of All Black captain Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, All Blacks vice-captain Conrad Smith and Ma'a Nonu, Smith was named as the vice-captain of the All Blacks by Head Coach Steve Hansen, with number 8 Kieran Read succeeding Richie McCaw as captain.
Smith started his role as vice-captain on 11 June 2016 when the All Blacks beat Wales 39-21 in the first of the three-test series between the two countries. Smith was named as Man of the Match for the first test of the series and was not subbed off. Smith was shifted to right wing for the second test against Wales to accommodate for Israel Dagg who had returned from injury. The second test, a 36-22 win on 18 June 2016, was both Smith and Dagg's 50th test, with both players scoring tries. Smith was errorless in the second test with the exception of letting in Welsh lock Alun Wyn Jones in for a try, but did not win Man of the Match for the second week in a row, conceding the award to Dagg. Smith scored the opening try of the third test on 25 June 2016 and finished the series without being subbed off from the field, with the All Blacks thrashing Wales 46-6 to end the series.
Smith was moved back for fullback for the second round of the 2016 Rugby Championship with Dagg as the right wing. This would become the re-established combination between the two players, with Smith cementing his spot as the All Blacks' first-choice fullback. Those two players ended up finishing as highest try scorers in the competition, both having scored 5 tries across the 6 matches of the competition each. Smith's most notable involvement in the competition was on 10 September 2016 where he scored two tries against Argentina during a 57-22 win. Smith was not subbed off during the Rugby Championship, but the performances of himself and Dagg were overshadowed by that of Beauden Barrett, the new first-choice first-five-eighth for the All Blacks, who scored 81 points in the competition.
During the 2016 game vs Ireland in Dublin, Ben Smith provided cover at halfback while Aaron Smith was sin binned in the first half of the match. Smith was injured with a broken finger towards the end of the match, ending his international year as he was replaced by winger Waisake Naholo. Smith scored 8 tries throughout 2016, third-to-highest for the All Blacks behind new fly-half Beauden Barrett and Israel Dagg (the highest two international scorers for the year).
Smith became the 68th captain of the All Blacks in the absence of Kieran Read, on 16 June 2017, as he recovered from a concussion sustained during Super Rugby to lead the All Blacks out against Samoa at Eden Park, as a warm-up for the three-test series against the touring British and Irish Lions team. Smith was subbed off for debutant Jordie Barrett in the 63rd minute, with lock Brodie Retallick taking over as captain for the rest of the test, which ended as a 78-0 win over Samoa.
Smith was named to start at fullback in the first test of the historic series against the Lions on 24 June 2017, but only lasted 21 minutes before receiving what was at the time, thought to have been his third concussion sustained in the space of three months. Smith was replaced by veteran first-five Aaron Cruden, with Beauden Barrett shifting to fullback and Israel Dagg staying on the right wing as the All Blacks beat the Lions 30-15 without Smith on the field. This test would be Smith's only ever fixture against the Lions, with Waisake Naholo, Jordie Barrett and Julian Savea deputising for him in the second and third tests. Smith was sorely missed during the series, as the Lions broke a number of records to draw the series 1-1 with the All Blacks.
After confirming that his vertigo was not a sign of concussion symptoms and instead caused by an inner ear infection, Smith announced that he would take a sabattical from all forms of rugby following the second Bledisloe Cup test of 2017.
Smith was named in the All Blacks squad for the 2017 Rugby Championship, but would begin his sabattical after the second Bledisloe Cup test. Smith scored tries in both Bledisloe Cup tests against the Wallabies during the Rugby Championship, making yet another career milestone from the right wing (rookie Damian McKenzie was used at fullback), as Smith scored his 30th try for the All Blacks in the second test on 26 August 2017, which the All Blacks won 35-29. His sabattical started following the conclusion of this test, with Beauden Barrett named as All Blacks vice-captain in Smith's absence.
Smith made his return to international rugby after the 2018 Super Rugby season, scoring four tries from 12 tests in the 2018 season. Smith scored his 30th try for New Zealand on 9 June, in a 52-11 win over France, placing him amongst the all-time top try-scorers internationally.
Having played many 2018 tests on the right wing, Smith was again shifted back to his preferred position at fullback for New Zealand's opening test of 2019, a 20-16 win against Argentina, with Damian McKenzie not considered for selection due to injury. Smith started at fullback in the other two tests of the 2019 Rugby Championship, but Smith's poor performance in the first Bledisloe Cup test, saw New Zealand lose to Australia in a record 26-47 defeat, having already lost Scott Barrett to a red card.
In the second Bledisloe Cup test for 2019, Smith, as well as fellow poor-performing veterans, Owen Franks and Rieko Ioane, were axed from the match-day 23 altogether, with Beauden Barrett supplanting Smith as New Zealand's first-choice fullback, while rookie wingers, George Bridge and Sevu Reece, picked to start. Although Barrett had overtaken Smith in the pecking order, Smith was picked to start in his final home game in New Zealand, a 92-7 win over Tonga, scoring two tries in the game, having a far better performance.
Although there were calls from the media for Smith to be dropped, he was named for his second World Cup, having been picked by All Black Head Coach, Steve Hansen, as one of 31 players in New Zealand's squad for the 2019 Rugby World Cup. He played in all three tests during the pool stages of the World Cup, two as a replacement off the bench and starting at fullback against Namibia in a 71-9 victory, scoring two tries in the process of that victory.
Smith was not selected for the World Cup quarter-final win against Ireland, or the semi-final loss to England, having been surpassed by Sevu Reece and Beauden Barrett. With New Zealand's loss in the semi-final eliminating the team from the competition, Hansen chose to give Smith, as well as fellow retiring players, Kieran Read, Matt Todd, Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty their final test, in the Bronze Final against Wales. Smith had a standout performance, including two tries, against Wales, with New Zealand beating them 40-17, claiming third place in the 2019 World Cup.
Awards and HonoursEdit
- Rugby World Cup / Webb Ellis Cup
- Winners: 2015
- The Rugby Championship
- Bledisloe Cup
- Winners: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019
- Dave Gallaher Trophy
- Winners: 2013 (2x), 2016, 2018
- Freedom Cup
- Winners: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019
- Killik Cup
- Winners: 2009
- Hillary Shield
- Winners: 2013, 2014 (2x), 2018
- British and Irish Lions series
- Winners: 2017 (Drawn series – Shared title)
- World Rugby Player of the Year
- Nominated: 2013
- World Rugby Team of the Year (New Zealand)
- Winners: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
- Laureus Team of the Year (New Zealand)
- Winners: 2016
Smith married Katie Menzies in 2015. Their daughter was born that year and their second child, son Walter was born on 9 March 2017 while Smith was out injured with concussion.
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- "2011 Investec Super Rugby Finals". Super Rugby. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
- Mortimer, James (5 June 2013). "Ben Smith to continue the evolution of an All Blacks three-quarter" (Press release). New Zealand Rugby Union. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
- Burdon, Nathan. "Ben Smith to bring up 100th game for Highlanders against Western Force". stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 3 July 2015.
- Milan, Steve James at San Siro (14 November 2009). "Italy 6 New Zealand 20: match report". ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 22 May 2018.
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- rugbydump.com (24 August 2013). "All Blacks retain Bledisloe Cup with Wellington win over the Wallabies" (Press release). rugbydump.com. Retrieved 24 August 2013.
- Sydney Morning Herald (29 September 2013). "Smith puts All Blacks in the box seat for title" (Press release). Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
- REUTERS (27 July 2017). "Ben Smith to take sabattical" (Press release). Radio New Zealand. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
- "All Blacks vs France". allblacks.com. 9 June 2018. Retrieved 19 October 2019.
- "Damian McKenzie to miss 2019 Rugby World Cup". newstalkzb.co.nz. 15 April 2019. Retrieved 19 October 2019.
- "Australia thrash All Blacks 47-26 in Rugby Championship in Perth". BBC.com. 10 August 2019. Retrieved 19 October 2019.
- "All Blacks squad named for Rugby World Cup 2019". allblacks.com. 28 August 2019. Retrieved 19 October 2019.
- "All Blacks vice-captain Ben Smith celebrates birth of son Walter". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 5 September 2019.