PARIS – World Cup winning scrum-half Aaron Smith has signed a two-year contract extension to remain an All Black, New Zealand Rugby (NZR) announced on Sunday.
Smith, 30, lifted the Webb Ellis trophy in 2015 has made 82 international appearances since his debut seven years ago and will remain with franchise the Highlanders.
“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,” he added as a deal abroad would have ended his international career.
BREAKING | 82 test All Black Aaron Smith has re-signed with New Zealand Rugby through to 2021. We're thrilled that you're staying in New Zealand Aaron!>https://t.co/fra3NdoYk1 pic.twitter.com/PWjJoaHumB— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) March 31, 2019
The controversial off-the-field figure has been handed two separate formal warnings by the NZR after a highly publicised airport toilet incident where he was caught emerging with a woman from a cubicle before a flight to South Africa in 2016.
The enquiry into the original incident was reopened in 2017 when the woman at the centre of the affair claimed Smith offered her money to lie in a legal affidavit that they did not have sex in the toilet.
The woman told reporters she had been involved in an affair with Smith for two years after the player had said it was a “one-off incident”.
NZR chief executive Steve Tew said he was pleased with Smith's renewal after captain Kieran Read and experienced pair Ben Smith and Owen Franks signalled the end of their international careers by signing contracts abroad.
“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,” he said.
Agence France-Presse (AFP)