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Smith to play in friendly

Thursday, February 01, 2018

WELLINGTON - All Blacks fullback Ben Smith will end his rugby sabbatical on Friday in the Otago Highlanders' pre-season friendly against the New South Wales Waratahs in Queenstown.

The 31-year-old has not played since the All Blacks' victory over Australia in the Rugby Championship last August, his last match before embarking on a New Zealand Rugby-approved hiatus.

Smith said at the time that he was taking a total break from the sport and intended to spend time travelling with his family.

Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger named a 32-man squad for Friday's Super Rugby warm-up, indicating many of the players involved would likely get around 40 minutes of action as both sides fine-tune their preparations ahead of the new season.

"There is plenty of competition within the team," Mauger said in a statement. "Some guys there who have a bit of experience and then there are some new guys.

"We'll see how they go in the next couple of games and learn a bit about them."

Smith has become All Blacks coach Steve Hansen's first-choice fullback in recent seasons but will need to fend off the challenge of some younger players for the world champions' number 15 jersey later in the year.

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