All Blacks fullback Ben Smith set to take eight-test sabbatical - report

Ben Smith has been absent from top rugby since leaving the field during the first test against the British and Irish Lions.
HANNAH PETERS/GETTY IMAGES

Ben Smith has been absent from top rugby since leaving the field during the first test against the British and Irish Lions.

All Blacks vice-captain Ben Smith is reportedly set to take a sabbatical and miss the side's last eight rugby tests of this year.

Smith is expected to take up a sabbatical clause in his New Zealand Rugby contract after the Bledisloe Cup test in Dunedin on August 26, NZME reported on Sunday.

It means he would sit out four Rugby Championship tests, the third test against the Wallabies in Brisbane, and three against France, Scotland and Wales on the end of year tour which also includes a match against the Barbarians.

Fullback Ben Smith is set to return from a stint on the sidelines for the Highlanders in their quarterfinal against the ...
DIANNE MANSON/GETTY IMAGES

Fullback Ben Smith is set to return from a stint on the sidelines for the Highlanders in their quarterfinal against the Crusaders on Saturday.

An All Blacks spokesman referred questions on the topic to Smith's manager Warren Alcock who is understood to be overseas.

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Smith sat out the second and third tests against the British and Irish Lions after being forced off the field with a head knock during the series opener in Auckland. He was later cleared of concussion symptoms and diagnosed with an inner ear infection.

He is expected to return from a precautionary period on the sidelines for the Highlanders in their Saturday Super Rugby quarterfinal against the Crusaders in Christchurch.

Smith re-signed with NZ Rugby in February, through to 2020, a deal which included the sabbatical clause previously activated by his former team-mates Richie McCaw and Dan Carter.

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