26 Aug 2015

Aaron Smith staying with New Zealand Rugby

12:17 pm on 26 August 2015

The All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith has re-signed with New Zealand Rugby to stay on until 2019.

The 26-year-old has played 41 Tests for the All Blacks, 78 games for the Highlanders and more than 40 matches for Manawatu.

Aaron Smith celebrates the Highlanders' Super Rugby Semi Final win.

Aaron Smith celebrates the Highlanders' Super Rugby Semi Final win. Photo: Photosport

Smith was a key member of the Highlanders squad that won the Super Rugby title this year.

He says knowing he's contracted for the next four years allows him to focus on his rugby and there are some exciting challenges ahead for the All Blacks which he hopes to be part of.

Smith says Dunedin is his home and he wouldn't want to play his Super Rugby anywhere else, as the Highlanders brotherhood is something pretty special and he can't wait for next season.

Smith joins All Blacks team-mates Julian Savea, Brodie Retallick and Dane Coles, who announced four-year deals earlier this year, while Jerome Kaino and Wyatt Crockett are contracted through until 2018. Players locked in to 2017 include Kieran Read, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks, Cory Jane, Israel Dagg, Aaron Cruden, Ben Smith, Charlie Faumuina, Sam Cane, Steven Luatua, Malakai Fekitoa, Hikawera Elliot, Nepo Laulala, Codie Taylor, James Broadhurst, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Waisake Naholo, Brad Weber, Charlie Ngatai and Ryan Crotty.

Contracted through to the end of next year are Sonny Bill Williams, Augustine Pulu, Beauden Barrett, Joe Moody, Lima Sopoaga, Luke Romano, Matt Todd, Victor Vito, George Moala, TJ Perenara, Dominic Bird, Patrick Tuipulotu and Andy Ellis.

All Black halfback Aaron Smith

All Black halfback Aaron Smith Photo: PHOTOSPORT

New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew said: "I want to congratulate Aaron on his recommitment to New Zealand Rugby. In the last few seasons he has developed into a key player for both the Highlanders and the All Blacks and is a world-class player on top of his game. With the signing of Aaron, together with Brodie, Julian and Dane, we now have a core group of key players committed long-term to the All Blacks and their Super teams, which is fantastic."

All Blacks Coach Steve Hansen added: "It's outstanding news for Aaron and for the All Blacks. With a number of senior players leaving at the end of this year, Aaron and other players will play a key role in the team as we face the exciting challenges coming up over that period, including the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand in 2017. We look forward to working with him."

Highlanders Head Coach Jamie Joseph commented: "Since I have known Aaron, he has blossomed into one of the best halfbacks I have seen. In a sense he is redefining the halfback role by the way he plays, and you know players like that don't come along that often."

Smith, or "Nugget" as he is affectionately known by his team-mates, started his professional career in 2008 at age 19 for the Manawatu Turbos. In 2011, after consistently strong performances in the ITM Cup, Smith earned a position in the Maori All Blacks. Subsequently offered a Super Rugby contract with the Highlanders, Smith made his debut in 2011, and has been the Highlanders first-choice halfback for the last four seasons. In 2012, after an outstanding Super Rugby season, Smith was selected for the All Blacks and made his first appearance against Ireland on 9 June 2012. His trademark bullet pass and fast-paced style suited the All Blacks' expansive game and he cemented himself in the starting team in 2013. He was awarded the Tom French Memorial Trophy for the Maori Rugby Player of the Year in 2014.