Aaron Smith commits to NZ Rugby until end of 2019

The New Zealand Rugby Union have announced that Highlanders Super Rugby winning
halfback Aaron Smith has recommitted to New Zealand Rugby through until the
end of the 2019 season.

Twenty-six-year-old Smith has re-signed with New Zealand Rugby, the Highlanders
and Manawatu Rugby through

Smith, who has played 41 Tests for the All Blacks, 78 games (including an amazing
60 consecutive matches) for the Highlanders and more than 40 matches for the
Manawatu Turbos, has become an integral part of the All Blacks and Highlanders
success over the last few years. He was a standout player for the Highlanders
this season helping the team to their inaugural Super Rugby title and carried
his outstanding form into the All Blacks season.

Smith said: “I’m really excited and thankful for the commitment
shown from New Zealand Rugby, including the Highlanders and Manawatu Turbos.
Knowing I’m contracted for the next four years allows me to focus on my
rugby and there are some exciting challenges ahead for the All Blacks which
I hope to be part of. Dunedin is my home and I wouldn’t want to play my
Super Rugby anywhere else; the Highlanders brotherhood is something pretty special
and I can’t wait for next season.”

Smith joins All Blacks teammates Julian Savea, Brodie Retallick and Dane Coles
who announced four-year deals earlier this year, while Jerome Kaino and Wyatt
Crockett are contracted through until 2018. Players locked in to 2017 include
Kieran Read, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks, Cory Jane, Israel Dagg, Aaron Cruden,
Ben Smith, Charlie Faumuina, Sam Cane, Steven Luatua, Malakai Fekitoa, Hikawera
Elliot, Nepo Laulala, Codie Taylor, James Broadhurst, Tawera Kerr Barlow, Nehe
Milner-Skudder, Waisake Naholo, Brad Weber, Charlie Ngatai and Ryan Crotty;
with Sonny Bill Williams, Augustine Pulu, Beauden Barrett, Joe Moody, Lima Sopoaga,
Luke Romano, Matt Todd, Victor Vito, George Moala, TJ Perenara, Dominic Bird,
Patrick Tuipulotu and Andy Ellis contracted through to the end of next year.

New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew said: “I want to congratulate
Aaron on his recommitment to New Zealand Rugby. In the last few seasons he has
developed into a key player for both the Highlanders and the All Blacks and
is a world-class player on top of his game. With the signing of Aaron, together
with Brodie, Julian and Dane, we now have a core group of key players committed
long-term to the All Blacks and their Super teams, which is fantastic.”

All Blacks Coach Steve Hansen added: “It’s outstanding news for
Aaron and for the All Blacks. With a number of senior players leaving at the
end of this year, Aaron and other players will play a key role in the team as
we face the exciting challenges coming up over that period, including the British
and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand in 2017. We look forward to working with
him.”

Highlanders Head Coach Jamie Joseph commented: “Since I have known Aaron,
he has blossomed into one of the best halfbacks I have seen. In a sense he is
redefining the halfback role by the way he plays, and you know players like
that don’t come along that often.”

Highlanders’ General Manager Roger Clark added; “Aaron’s commitment
to the Highlanders until 2019 is fantastic news. He is such an important member
of the team and leadership group, and it’s great to have that commitment
from him to the team and the organisation.”

Manawatu Rugby CEO John Knowles said: “Aaron remains a very important
part of our community and we are delighted that he has recommitted to Manawatu.
Every time he comes home he is out and about visiting schools and rugby clubs
and inspiring the next generation of rugby players and we certainly appreciate
his support.”

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