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Aaron Smith commits future to New Zealand and signs two-year deal with Highlanders

30-year-old Smith made his All Blacks debut in 2012.

AARON SMITH HAS committed his future to New Zealand and has signed a new two-year deal with Super Rugby side, Highlanders.

RUGBY BLEDISLOE CUP Aaron Smith with New Zealand team-mate Liam Squire. Source: AAP/PA Images

The 30-year-old, who made his All Blacks debut in 2012, has made 81 Test appearances for the reigning world champions.

“From my earliest playing days, my focus has always been about being passionate about the teams I play for and I’ve always enjoyed giving 100 percent to the teams I represent,” Smith said.

I love representing the Highlanders and the All Blacks and playing my rugby in New Zealand gives me the chance to continue to do that,” he added as a deal abroad would have ended his international career.

“I’m grateful to NZ Rugby and the Highlanders organisation for all the support they’ve given me over my career and for the opportunities they have provided for myself and Teagan, going forward.”

Smith also made his first appearance for the Highlanders in 2011, making 129 appearances in eight years with the team.

The controversial off-the-field figure has been handed two separate formal warnings by the NZR after a highly publicised airport toilet incident where he was caught emerging with a woman from a cubicle before a flight to South Africa in 2016.

The enquiry into the original incident was reopened in 2017 when the woman at the centre of the affair claimed Smith offered her money to lie in a legal affidavit that they did not have sex in the toilet.

The woman told reporters she had been involved in an affair with Smith for two years after the player had said it was a “one-off incident”.

“Nuggy has been such an outstanding player for us over many years and deserves every accolade he gets,” said All Blacks head coach, Steve Hansen.

“He’s a passionate team man, a leader in our team and gives his all to the group. He works incredibly hard on his game and has been incredibly consistent since first coming into the All Blacks.

The speed of his delivery from the base of the scrum and ruck is a key point of difference and means we can play the game at real pace, which has suited our game.”

Smith became the most capped All Blacks half back of all time (overtaking Justin Marshall) in the Test defeat to Ireland in Dublin last November.

He has scored 16 tries for New Zealand and kicked a conversion against Australia in 2014.

His 129 Highlanders appearances put him second only behind Ben Smith.

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