Conrad Smith: A year without Ma'a
Thu, 06 Sep 2012 9:37a.m.
By 3 News online staff
It may feel a little strange for All Blacks centre Conrad Smith when he runs out onto Westpac Stadium to face Argentina. Smith has been out of competitive rugby with an eye injury since the Hurricanes' final Super Rugby game of the season in July.
Usually the sight of Ma’a Nonu next to him would make him feel right at home on the rugby field, but the two haven’t combined since the World Cup final win against France.
“I think it’s almost a year since we’ve played together… I’m sure it won’t take long to get used to each other again,” says Smith.
Smith says that the training has gone well and it’s felt like "same old" when it comes to the second-five and centre combining.
The Nonu/Smith duo has been absent for a variety of reasons, including the eye injury which saw Smith suffer a detached retina. Nonu was rested during the June Test series against Ireland, allowing Sonny Bill Williams to more than ably fill the No 12 jersey. Williams then later shifted to centre for the two Bledisloe Cup matches against Australia.
Smith is keen to keep the All Blacks' midfield momentum building.
“[SBW] played really well. Throughout my time in the All Blacks it’s always been whoever’s given the opportunity to play you always look good when the team’s functioning well – particularly in the midfield – you really benefit from that,” says Smith.
He says that it’s key to get the basics right and “start from the start and not get ahead of ourselves”.
“I think that goes for the guys inside and outside of us, as well.”
Smith says he is feeling good and was working on his fitness just a couple of weeks after his eye operation. He adds that he wanted to play the opening matches of the Rugby Championship but instead took sound medical advice.
But there won’t be any hesitancy when it comes to contact situations.
“I think you just shut your mind out to it. You don’t want to ever go into a game half-pie. Trust that [his eye is] fine.”
The All Blacks’ backline still has a ways to go to gel, says Smith. Today’s team announcement sees a backline of No 10 Dan Carter, Nonu, Smith, Julian Savea (left wing) and Cory Jane (right wing).
“Individually we’re playing really well but we’re not quite clicking as a unit," says Smith.
“We’ve played well, particularly defensively. We would like to score more points. We’re going to make sure we do that in the weeks to come."
The All Blacks (8 points) top the Rugby Championship ladder with two wins against Australia, with South Africa (6) second with a win and a draw and Argentina (2) third with a draw against South Africa two weeks ago. Australia (0) is yet to register a point.
All Blacks to face Argentina, Westpac Stadium, Wellington, 7:35pm: All Blacks: Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea, Dan Carter, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (captain), Victor Vito, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Ben Smith, Aaron Cruden, Piri Weepu, Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Charlie Faumuina, Andrew Hore
Watch the video for the full Conrad Smith interview with Firstline’s presenter Sam Ackerman.
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