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Dublin: 7 °C Saturday 25 January, 2020

World Cup winner Smith confirms All Blacks departure at end of 2019 as France move on the cards

The 32-year-old has signed a contract with French club Pau.

AFTER 76 TESTS for New Zealand and 144 games for the Highlanders, Ben Smith has confirmed tonight that he will be bringing the curtain down on his All Blacks involvement after the 2019 season.

Ben Smith tackled by Joey Carbery Ben Smith in action in November's Test against Joey Carbery. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Smith, a member of New Zealand’s World Cup triumph in 2015, is to move to Pau after signing a contract with the French club. 

The 32-year-old confirmed his decision as he is set to depart after what is expected to be his swansong at the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Smith, who was in action in Dublin last month for New Zealand’s loss to Ireland, explained that he is ‘pretty keen to experience a fresh, new challenge’.

“I’m excited about the opportunities that may present themselves in the future, but I also realise that my playing time with Otago, the Highlanders and the All Blacks now has an end point,” said Smith on the All Blacks website.

“In your heart you want to play forever, but in your head you know that’s not possible. In the playing time I have remaining, I’m pretty keen to experience a fresh, new challenge. I think it will be good to be involved in a new environment and a foreign culture for a while, I’m sure it will be a bit of an adventure for both myself and my family.

“Dunedin will always be where I call home and I’m one short of playing my 50th game for the ‘Grizzlies’ so I still have a little unfinished business here yet.”

Smith made his debut in 2009 against Italy and has scored 33 tries during his All Blacks career. He missed out on the 2011 World Cup but was a regular during the tournament in 2015. The full-back scored tries against Namibia and Tonga as New Zealand retained their crown.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen praised the impact of Smith.

Ben Smith celebrates his try with teammates Ben Smith celebrates a try with team-mates during the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Source: Photosport/Andrew Cornaga/INPHO

“Ben will leave New Zealand with the very best wishes of everyone involved in the All Blacks. He’s a special person and an outstanding rugby player who has always given – and will continue to give – 100 percent to the All Blacks jersey.

“He has been a key member of the All Blacks leadership group for many years and captained the team against Samoa last year. We’ll get to thank Ben, his wife Katie and his family personally for his contribution to New Zealand Rugby next year, when the All Blacks season resumes, but for now we want to congratulate him on everything he has achieved.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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