Ben Smith to continue the evolution of an All Blacks three-quarter
James Mortimer 05 Jun 2013 Getty Images
While destructive at his rampant best, a well-placed kick, it was discovered, could turn the immense freight train around, and while not as gargantuan as the famous number 11 in his prime, the likes of Joe Rokocoko and Sitiveni Sivivatu had similar brilliant qualities, but not quite the complete portfolio which is now essential.
Julian Savea, for all his talents, has been told by coaches like most big modern outside backs, to ensure his involvement in the game is continuous, and the riot the Hurricanes wing can inflict now comes not just from his ‘Lomu-like’ runs, but the fact that he is consistent under the high ball with a punishing defence.
It is however the likes of Ben Smith who defines, like the like skilled and injured Cory Jane, what is as close to a complete back one could have in the back corridors of the field.
Conventionally such a term has been ‘utility’ but that is something assistant coach Ian Foster doesn’t like to hear.
“I see him (Smith) capable of starting in three (positions), and that's why I don't like the utility tag,” he said.
“He's good enough to play in three positions and for us it's probably a matter of where we've got the best mix. Clearly wing looks pretty likely this week.”
Smith’s brilliant form for the Highlanders, among New Zealand’s if not Investec Super Rugby’s best back, saw him regain All Blacks honours, and coach Steve Hansen and New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew have indicated his growing potential in the All Blacks frame.
He has even been talked of being a potential centre in the future, similar to the evolution a certain wingman called Tana Umaga made later in his decorated career.
One thing is for certain, his all round game and class will be an important part of an All Blacks back three that will be confronted by the 'will they or won’t they' genius that only French backlines can put together, but equally Smith’s incision could allow him to profit if the visitors defence is not ironclad.
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