Calls for Highlanders' Smith at fullback for ABs

MARC HINTON
Last updated 05:00 18/05/2014
Ben Smith
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ
BIG BOOST: All Black fullback Ben Smith has recovered from a leg infection to take his place in the Highlanders side for their playoff battle with the Sharks in Durban on Sunday morning.

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The drums are beating louder for standout Highlanders fullback Ben Smith to be given a shot in the No 15 jersey for the All Blacks.

Smith's franchise coach Jamie Joseph and former All Black and Sunday Star-Times columnist Jeff Wilson are the latest to join the chorus calling for the country's best fullback to play there for his country.

Smith, 27, has been in scintillating form at fullback for the Highlanders over the last three seasons of Super Rugby, but thus far has been used mostly on the right wing for the All Blacks, and late last year at centre. Israel Dagg has been almost exclusively the starting No 15.

But Joseph and Wilson both believe it's time Smith was given a chance to show what he can do at fullback in the test arena.

"There are two things for me," Joseph said yesterday. "It doesn't matter where you play him, he's still going to be a great rugby player. But he's by far the in-form fullback of this competition - for the last three years, not just this year. That's why he deserves it - he's been consistently the best."

Wilson, who moved between wing and fullback throughout his career, said Smith's sustained excellence at the back demanded a rethink from the national selectors, especially as the World Cup looms.

"You can't argue with what that the combination of Savea, Smith and Dagg did last year. But why would you ignore the potential combination of perhaps Savea, Smith and Jane.

"I'm not saying at international level at fullback he's proven he's better than Dagg.

But if you go on form in all rugby he deserves a chance to play that position for the All Blacks and see what he can do at the back for the world's best team.

"It could be something special."

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