Aaron Smith has played his last game for New Zealand in the Rugby Championship this year, with the scrum-half to remain at home for the birth of his second child.
The All Blacks No. 9 did not travel to Australia with the squad ahead of the Test with the Wallabies in Perth, instead staying in New Zealand alongside skipper Sam Whitelock and fly-half Richie Mo’unga.
It was thought Smith might rejoin his New Zealand teammates in Queensland for the closing Tests against South Africa, but with his second child still to be born there is now not enough time for him to serve quarantine protocols and then adequately prepare for the Springboks.
New Zealand also has limited managed isolation spaces, with Smith no guarantee of securing a spot if he was in fact forced back home early having traveled to Australia.
Smith will instead turn out for Manawatu in the Bunnings Cup, New Zealand’s provincial championship, and may also yet still be available for the All Blacks spring tour of the United States and Europe.
“There’s a silver lining here about not being with the All Blacks. I’m only five games short of 50 for the Turbos and excited about hopefully making that milestone,” Smith said.
“The door isn’t completely closed to me joining the team for the Northern Tour if our baby comes early. In this environment anything can happen so I’ve got an open mind. At the moment though, I just want to focus on being here with my family and enjoying that time and playing for Manawatu. I can’t wait to get the boots on again.”