Smith up for reunion with old Hurricanes mates
Skipper Conrad Smith admits he's enticed by the prospect of "getting the old band together" for the new era of Hurricanes rugby.
Of course, the old band would consist of Smith himself, and ex-Canes Ma'a Nonu and Piri Weepu who have set up shop with the Blues after falling out with administrators in the capital.
Nonu and Weepu are both off franchise contract at the end of the year and have made no secret of their desire to return to their spiritual home in Wellington. Many believe that with Mark Hammett out of the picture from the end of this season, the major impediment to that happening has now been removed.
With confirmation that the former Wellington coaching tandem of Chris Boyd and John Plumtree would take over the Hurricanes from next season, Smith yesterday endorsed the appointment, and then reflected on the tantalising prospect of a reunion with his old mates as he launched test preparations with the All Blacks.
"He's had a lot of positive feedback from players who have played for him with the Lions," Smith said of new head coach Boyd. "He was my first backs coach when I made the Lions decade ago, I enjoyed him then, and I think it's pretty positive."
But it then got interesting when the 32-year-old was asked about the prospect of national team-mate Nonu and Weepu being enticed back for one last lap of the track with their home franchise.
"They're good friends and I'd like to play footy with them. I don't think it's ever mattered about the coaches, it was a fit with the Hurricanes. Whether they're ready or the Hurricanes are ready to have those guys back, it would be something I'd have a say in, but it would be more for them to answer.
"If it works and both parties are happy it would be great."
Smith was also loath to buy into the theory that England will put up a sub-standard lineup for Saturday's opening test, shorn their players from the weekend's Premiership final.
"I know even in the All Blacks when we've had times missing five or six players, if we were in their shoes there's no way we'd think that's an excuse. There would be huge motivation. We'd think there's still no reason we can't play our best and that will be the same way they're thinking.
"Everyone that will be playing will have international experience and be very good players, and that's what we're aware of."
Smith said the quick transition from Super Rugby into test mode was something the All Blacks were now comfortable with, and the prospect of playing three straight tests against an opponent that was now one of test rugby's true measuring sticks was exciting.
"I've loved the Super Rugby season so far, and being back with this side is pretty massive. I haven't felt this sort of excitement around playing the English, a team we respect a lot. It's the biggest challenge we've had in New Zealand for quite some time and I've noticed that edge in the camp."
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