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Dublin: 4 °C Tuesday 15 October, 2019

Munster and Top 14-linked Ben Smith commits to Highlanders

The 30-year-old All Black will stay with his native region beyond the next World Cup.

Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

ALL BLACK FULLBACK Ben Smith has passed on a host of European possibilities and committed to his native province the Highlanders until beyond the next World Cup.

The 30-year-old, who has also proven to be adept in the centre, has signed a new three-year contract with the 2015 Super Rugby champions despite reports late last year linking him with Munster and then Pau.

“It’s been an interesting few months as we have worked through what was best for my family and career over the next few years, in the end we are happy with our decision to say in NZ,” the Dunedin man said after today’s announcement.

“Obviously the Highlanders, All Blacks and Otago are teams that I really enjoy playing for and I’m pretty excited about a few of the opportunities and challenges we’ll have over the next few seasons.”

Head coach Tony Brown meanwhile, praised the 60-cap All Black as ‘an outstanding Highlander man’ while also casually slipping his nickname into the official club statement.

“It’s fantastic news that Bender has decided to stay. I know these decisions are never easy, but now that it’s done, we are looking forward to having him back leading the side again.

As a coach you can’t ask for much more from your players than he provides us week after week, but more than being the consummate professional and a great rugby player, he’s just an outstanding Highlander man.”

Smith was one of three big Kiwi names with uncertain future due to contracts expiring after this year’s Super Rugby season.

Aaron Cruden has already agreed a move to join Vern Cotter in Montpellier while Smith’s closest rival for the black number 15 jersey, Israel Dagg, seems to have cooled talk of a switch to Leinster which had been mooted in November.

Source: The42 Rugby Show/SoundCloud

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Sean Farrell

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