Smith cuts to the chase for All Blacks spot
WELLINGTON (Reuters) - All Blacks hopeful Aaron Smith is used to making cuts.
But this week in Wellington the former apprentice hairdresser is well aware that at least one, if not two, of the four scrumhalves at a 35-man All Blacks training camp in New Zealand's capital will be trimmed when coach Steve Hansen names his 30-man squad to face Ireland on Sunday.
"It's a bit of a weird format, it's a training camp, so I'm just trying to do all of the little things right both on and off the field," the Otago Highlanders scrumhalf told reporters in Wellington on Monday.
"I'm chuffed to be here, and very excited to be in the environment. I'm just trying to soak up as much as possible."
Mindful that World Cup winning teams have suffered a hangover in the following year, Hansen has tried to balance his first squad with players who have proved themselves at international level as well as injecting fresh blood.
As such, Smith's competition for the coveted black jersey at the camp include World Cup winners Andy Ellis and Piri Weepu and fellow youngster Tawera Kerr-Barlow of the Waikato Chiefs.
Wellington Hurricanes scrumhalf TJ Perenara is also knocking, loudly, at Hansen's door after another superb performance in his side's 66-24 demolition of the Melbourne Rebels last Saturday, something that Smith said he was well aware of.
"(They're) all coming through at once, which is a bit of a bugger," joked the 23-year-old Smith who came to prominence from one of the smaller unions, Manawatu.
Unlike many modern day scrumhalves, Smith is something of a throwback. He is not over 1.83m (6-feet) tall or 100kgs. Instead he stands 1.71m (about 5-feet-7) and weighs just 82kgs, though that could be if he is dripping wet.
Instead he relies on a long, flat pass that allows his backline that little bit of extra time, has a well-honed kicking game and is beginning to run more around the fringes as the Highlanders forwards provide him with clean ball.
He will get the opportunity to further press his claims on Friday when the Highlanders play Ellis's Canterbury Crusaders.
"I'm looking at it as a trial," he said of the Super Rugby clash in Christchurch.
"The key for me will be going out not trying to do everything and be the man. It's just about trying to do my job within the team and do my job within our game plan.
"Hopefully that's enough to make me shine brighter. These are the games you want to play and start.
"If I can do the little things off the field right then hopefully the performance comes and if I play well on Friday then hopefully I'll have done all I can to show the coaches to 'pick me, pick me'."
(Editing by Patrick Johnston)
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