‘I should have taken time off,’ says All Blacks’ Smith

New Straits Times - - Sport -

WELLING­TON: All Blacks scrumhalf Aaron Smith has said he should have taken time away from rugby as he bat­tled with the em­bar­rass­ing fall­out from a tryst with a woman in an air­port toi­let last year.

Smith was sus­pended for one Test, vol­un­tar­ily stood down for an­other and re­ceived an of­fi­cial warn­ing from New Zealand Rugby last Oc­to­ber fol­low­ing rev­e­la­tions of a li­ai­son in a dis­abled toi­let at Christchurch Air­port.

He re­turned to the team for the Ire­land clash in Chicago in Novem­ber and also played against Italy in Rome, Ire­land in Dublin and France in Paris.

He was off his best, how­ever, and Smith said the con­tro­versy had taken its toll on and off the field.

“It was a huge mis­take by me, ob­vi­ously,” he said yes­ter­day.

“Just the ef­fects it had on me men­tally — it re­ally af­fected me and my per­for­mance. The way it hurt my fam­ily and my part­ner and my­self, ob­vi­ously, it was just a re­ally tough time.

“I prob­a­bly should have put rugby on the back­burner then and fo­cused on my­self and my fam­ily.”

Smith will play his 100th match for Su­per Rugby side Otago High­landers against the Melbourne Rebels on Fri­day.

While he is yet to re­turn to the level that led Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions coach War­ren Gat­land to call him the best player in the world last year, Smith felt he was grad­u­ally work­ing his way back.

“I think a lot of pos­i­tives have come from that in­ci­dent for me, per­son­ally, on the field and off field,” the 28-year-old said.

“I’ve had heaps of help. I’ve done a lot of coun­selling and sought out the right peo­ple. But also from in­ci­dents like that you learn who your real friends are. It puts ev­ery­thing in per­spec­tive.

“I’m just re­ally ex­cited about this year and I think it’s fi­nally com­ing out in my game.”

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