'It was a bit of a fight between my daughter and son to see who took the medal'

Some big names in the All Blacks set-up bid farewell in Tokyo this evening.

BEN SMITH HAS long been considered one of the good guys in Kiwi rugby, so it was fitting that he bowed out of the Test arena in rather heartwarming fashion.

As the All Black – who finishes on 84 Test caps – strolled up onto the podium to collect his bronze medal after starring in the Kiwis’ win over Wales in the third-place play-off at the World Cup, he was accompanied by his children, Annabelle and Walter.

new-zealand-v-wales-2019-rugby-world-cup-bronze-final-tokyo-stadium Ben Smith's kids accepted his bronze medal. Source: David Davies

The Smith kids were clearly ecstatic to be able to accept the medal on behalf of their father, who is joining Top 14 club Pau after this World Cup.

The leaps of joy and wide-eyed smiles struck a chord as Smith reminded us all that family comes first.

“It was a bit of a fight between my daughter and my son to see who took it,” said Smith afterward. “They obviously enjoyed getting out there and I think that’s what this game is about – bringing people along for the ride.

“My family’s a big part of what I do. It’s good to have the family out there, have them run around and enjoy just being kids really.

“They were pretty pumped to put a medal around their neck, but obviously not quite what we were after.”

Smith was outstanding in New Zealand’s 40-17 success, scoring two superb tries to end his Test career in style and underlining that he perhaps could have offered something in the semi-final defeat to England last weekend.

Now, Smith bids farewell to the black jersey.

“There are definitely feelings of sadness,” said Smith. “I played a lot of rugby with some good mates in this team and I had some good memories. There is a bit of sadness and a bit of excitement of what comes next.

japan-rugby-wcup-bronze-final Smith's kids enjoyed being part of the occasion. Source: Mark Baker

“But, yeah, I’ll leave with good memories and I know it’s the right time to move on – it feels right.

“I’m looking forward now to sitting back and watching the All Blacks and some top talent that’s coming through to represent our country.”

Smith wasn’t the only one bowing out for the All Blacks, of course, with captain Kieran Read playing his final game and finishing up with 127 Test caps.

While the pain of that loss to England will stay with him, he can take major pride in his international career as he gets set for a move to Toyota Verblitz in Japan.

“This jersey, it does mean a lot,” said Read. “It’s been a part of my life for a long time. For me, it dictates that you try to leave it in a better place than you found it and that’s been my aim my entire career so hopefully I’ve done that.”

Blockbusting centre Sonny Bill Williams and his midfield partner Ryan Crotty were playing their final games for the Kiwis, with the latter also moving to Japan after this World Cup campaign.

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“I didn’t want to come in from out there [the pitch],” said Crotty. “You probably saw a few of us old guys lingering around on the field for a little bit longer than we should’ve been. It’ll sink in over the next couple of days, I’m sure.

“I was just mindful to go out and enjoy myself and enjoy the moments that the game would give me and hang on to them.” 

new-zealand-v-wales-2019-rugby-world-cup-bronze-final-tokyo-stadium Kieran Read with his children after the All Blacks' win. Source: David Davies

Last but not least, head coach Steve Hansen’s tenure is now over and though this World Cup didn’t go to plan, he will go down as one of the greatest All Blacks coaches ever.

Having been an assistant for the 2011 World Cup success, Hansen guided the Kiwis to their 2015 title as the boss and will be fondly remembered as he now gets ready to join Read at Toyota.

“It’ll be pretty good, I reckon,” said Hansen of the prospect of watching the All Blacks without being directly involved. “Beer in one hand and access to another one in the other hand. No pressure.

“You’ll always be connected to the team. It’s like a family and you’ll always want it to do well. One thing I promise, so you [the media] don’t come bothering me, I won’t be talking about what they should be doing and how they should be doing it. If you ring me and ask me that, it won’t be a very good conversation.

“I’m looking forward to quality time with [his wife] Tasha. She’s been a fantastic support, I couldn’t have done the job without her. She’s a better leader than I am, she’s wiser, she’s better looking and smarter, so she ticks all the boxes.

“I wish and hope this team continues to grow and get better and I will look on it with great pride. And you want the game to get better because without it we’d be a fairly miserable lot.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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