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Aaron Smith confirms where he will play his rugby post RWC.

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Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images

Staying put.

In a major coup for New Zealand Rugby (NZR), the All Blacks most capped number nine and second most capped Highlanders player, halfback Aaron Smith, has put pen to paper – and signed a new two-year deal with NZR and his Super Rugby side.

30-year-old Smith made his All Blacks debut in 2012 and has been a mainstay in the national side ever since, playing 82 Tests to date. He made his Highlanders debut in 2011 and has pulled on the southern team’s Super jersey 129 times.

Smith said he was excited to confirm that his future would be in New Zealand.

“From my earliest playing days, my focus has always been about being passionate about the teams I play for and I’ve always enjoyed giving 100 percent to the teams I represent,” Smith said.

“I love representing the Highlanders and the All Blacks and playing my rugby in New Zealand gives me the chance to continue to do that.

“I’m grateful to NZ Rugby and the Highlanders organisation for all the support they’ve given me over my career and for the opportunities they have provided for myself and Teagan, going forward.”

New Zealand Rugby CEO Steve Tew said:

“We’re delighted to have re-signed Aaron through to 2021. He’s a proven world-class player, the most capped All Blacks halfback ever and an incredibly important member of the All Blacks and Highlanders.

“New Zealand Rugby has been working incredibly hard on the retention of our key players and, while it’s inevitable that some will move on following the Rugby World Cup, we’ll still have a core of experience in the All Blacks post 2019, and Aaron will be a key part of that group.

“We know all our players have choices to make on where they play their rugby and that the global environment is challenging, but we feel we have got one of the best environments for players here, with outstanding teams and coaches, and so we congratulate Aaron on his decision.”

All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen added: “Nuggy has been such an outstanding player for us over many years and deserves every accolade he gets.

“He’s a passionate team man, a leader in our team and gives his all to the group. He works incredibly hard on his game and has been incredibly consistent since first coming into the All Blacks. The speed of his delivery from the base of the scrum and ruck is a key point of difference and means we can play the game at real pace, which has suited our game.

“It’s fantastic news that he has committed himself to both New Zealand Rugby and the Highlanders and we congratulate him on his decision. It’s also timely to congratulate him and his partner Teagan on their recent engagement and the pending birth of their first child.”

Pulse Energy Highlanders Head Coach Aaron Mauger is delighted that Smith has recommitted to the Highlanders for two more years.

“Clearly he has been one of our most influential players, and on the field he’s obviously a big part of the way we like to play the game, so to have the certainty of his services going forward means a great deal to us.’

Highlanders CEO Roger Clark is also excited to get Smith’s signature: “Aaron is one of those once-in-a-generation players who has influenced the way halfbacks play the modern game. His presence over the next few seasons means our next generation of Highlanders will greatly benefit from his experience and ability, which for our organisation is priceless.”

Smith joins a number of established All Blacks who have signed with New Zealand Rugby post 2019, including Dane Coles, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody, Ofa Tuungafasi, Scott Barrett, Sam Cane, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Anton Lienert-Brown, Damian McKenzie and Rieko Ioane, with negotiations progressing with a number of other key players.

In other news, Ryan Crotty confirmed he would be leaving NZ Rugby post RWC. Crotty joins a number of All Blacks leaving post RWC. Other high-profile stars set to depart include Kieran Read (Toyota Verblitz), Owen Franks (Northampton), Nehe Milner-Skudder (Toulon), Jordan Taufua (Leicester Tigers), Matt Proctor (Northampton) and Jeffery Toomaga-Allen (Wasps).

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Star Player Commits to Australian Rugby

One of the Wallabies key men has put pen to paper on a new deal with Australian Rugby ahead of the Rugby World Cup

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(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Wallabies lock Izack Rodda has signed a new deal with Australian Rugby and the Queensland Reds despite many of his teammates heading abroad post-World Cup.

The 23-year-old’s new deal will see him stay in the country for another four-years, meaning he will be available for selection come the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France

Rodda is delighted to have been able to confirm the news ahead of the start of the Rugby World Cup in Japan which starts on Friday. 

“It’s good to confirm and announce this before the World Cup starts this week, so I can shift my focus on the Wallabies, but definitely excited and honoured to re-sign with Australian Rugby and the Reds for another four years,” he said.

The news is a boost to the Wallabies as Rodda only has 21 caps for them to his name which falls well below the 60 required to represent the country if a player moves overseas to play. 

That rule has already confirmed that the likes of Samu Kerevi, Adam Coleman and Rory Arnold will all be out of Wallabies contention come the conclusion of the World Cup as they head overseas with less than 30 caps each. 

As well as those players there are a number of high-profile experienced Wallabies leaving the country come the end of the tournament, so this will be a real boost to fans of the green and gold. 

The Wallabies kick start their World Cup campaign against Fiji on Saturday, in what is a must win game as they also face current Six Nations Grand Slam winners Wales in the same pool in which only two can progress to the quarter-finals. 

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Scottish Star Forced Into Early Retirement

One of Scotland’s finest players has been forced to retire from the game due to concussion

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Scotland and Leicester Tigers star David Denton has been forced to retire from professional rugby due to concussion.

The 29-year-old was advised to quit the sport on medical grounds following a concussion which he picked up almost a year ago while playing for the Premiership outfit. 

However, Denton has admitted that he was actually relieved when he found out the news as it was a long time coming. 

“My actual reaction at the time my neurologist told me it was no longer a good idea to play rugby… to be honest there was a bit of relief. This had been building up inside of me for four to five months. I knew there was a strong possibility that this moment (when I had to retire) was coming. By the time I got to it, I had been through all the emotional highs and lows, so I was prepared for it,” he said. 

Although it was a relief Denton also confirmed that it is a blow as he felt like he was getting back to his best and thanked everyone that has helped him along his journey. 

“Of course, it is devastating that my rugby career is ending. After a few years where I had a series of injuries, I had got myself back into a position where I felt, physically and mentally, that I could play the best rugby of my career. I’m incredibly fortunate. Scottish Rugby have helped me, particularly over the last few months. They have been awesome. I’ve spent a lot of time with (Scottish Rugby ambassador) Al Kellock, (chairman) Colin Grassie and (chief operating officer) Dominic McKay and they have helped me hugely, thinking about the transition from being a player to what happens next,” he added. 

He also already has plans for the future and unlike many who leave the playing field, he does not want a position back in rugby as he would like to head into corporate business. 

“The people they have put me in front of (from commerce and industry) has been great. I want to get into the corporate world. Coaching, as a career, was never something that appealed to me. I’m really excited for the next steps in my life,” he finished. 

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend, who is currently preparing his side for their Rugby World Cup opening game against Ireland in Japan, took the time to pay his respects to Denton’s career. 

“We’re really disappointed that someone who still had a lot to offer the game both at club level and for Scotland hasn’t been able to do that, but our first thoughts are with his health and his life beyond rugby and it seems to be the right decision to retire. We were hoping that taking some time out of the game would mean he would be available for selection in our world cup training squad and when that didn’t happen we were hopeful he’d be back for next season, but again that’s not happened. We’re going to miss him with Scotland. He played very well last summer after being involved in the Six Nations, playing really well in that game against Argentina, and getting back to the form he was in at the last world cup. As coaches we really enjoyed working with Dave over the years and we wish him all the best in life after rugby,” he said. 

Denton leaves the game with a total of 42 international caps to his name and will be fondly remembered for several explosive games in a Scottish jersey. 

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Williams and Priestland Defend Biggar

Wales fly-half Dan Biggar has come in for a lot of scrutiny of late but now some of the people that know him best have come to his defence

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Wales out-half Dan Biggar has been criticised of late by many fans, but fellow Welshmen JJ Williams and Rhys Priestland have come out to stand up for him while talking to RugbyPass.

Williams, who is Biggar’s current coach at Northampton Saints, believes that Biggar is not only deserving of the Wales No 10 jersey but that he is the best player in the world when it comes to knock-out rugby.

“If you need someone to stay on task, to make sure that they keep their nerve to run a game down, or close a game out in knockout rugby, there is no better player in the world. He’s mentally as tough as hell. I have often said I’d hate to see an argument between him and TJ Perenara. They are two of the most bloody-minded people I’ve ever worked with. If you want to go into battle with anyone, it’s Dan Biggar. He’s an absolute trooper,” he said.

Williams has previously coached the Super Rugby side the Hurricanes, where he worked with Beauden Barrett so the praise will come as a huge boost for Biggar.

Biggar has become Wales’ first-choice fly-half following Gareth Anscombe’s ACL injury in a World Cup warm-up game against England last month and Williams was impressed by how he dealt with being thrown into that match.

“The response he put in against England, after he had criticism, well I thought it was superb. That summed up, in a nutshell, what Dan Biggar can do and who he is as a bloke,” he added.

As well as Williams coming to Biggar’s defence, fellow Welsh No 10 Priestland is full of praise for the Northampton Saint and can’t understand the criticism.

“Look, Dan’s a great competitor, a fantastic kicker and unbelievable under the high ball. I probably see more of him playing for Wales now and whenever he has come on for Anscombe he has had a positive impact. I got better coming across the bridge (to play in the Premiership) and I’m sure he’s the same. It’s a weird one. When Anscombe was playing, there were people asking for him to start, and now Dan is starting they are asking for someone else,” he said.

Whatever people believe it is clear that Biggar’s peers hold him in high regard and believe he could be a vital part to any Welsh success.

Biggar and co have had a frustrating time during their warm-up games with three losses from four games, but will look to turn a corner over the next couple of weeks as they prepare for their opening World Cup match against Georgia on Monday September 23rd.

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