All Blacks back Ben Smith has shunned suggestions from coach Steve Hansen that he's struggled with a lack of self-belief.
The 33-year-old fell out of favour with selectors during the Rugby Championship after some indifferent displays, following an injury-plagued Super Rugby campaign with the Highlanders. He ultimately lost his starting spot to wing Sevu Reece, while Beauden Barrett cemented his favoured fullback position.
While he bounced back with a stand-out display in the 92-7 demolition of Tonga in NZ's final World Cup warm-up, during the build-up to that game, Hansen suggested Smith's dip in form was a result of some mental obstacles.
"The problem… is he's lost his self-belief and his confidence," said Hansen. "Maybe that's because of the injury, maybe it's because everyone's talking about him leaving and he's got caught up in that."
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On Tuesday, the 80-test international dismissed any hint he'd been lacking confidence and insisted his faith in his talents had never wavered.
"I've always believed in my ability and what I can do," Smith said. "I always back myself to get out there and do a good job - there's never any doubt there."
The Highlanders incumbent could only offer a bemused look, when asked why Hansen had inferred as much.
"You might have to ask Steve [Hansen] on that one. I always trust myself to get out there and do a good job for the team.
"I could've been doing things a bit better, definitely, but I always trust myself to get out there and do a good job."
Whether or not Smith will have the opportunity to do that in the World Cup opener against the Springboks on Saturday is yet to be determined, with the squad to be officially named on Thursday.
While the outside back trio of Reece, Barrett, and George Bridge has proven its quality, Smith provides a level of experience and maturity that the selectors have valued at previous World Cups.
Either way, Smith says he's ready to contribute wherever - be it on the wing or fullback - and whenever he's called on, as the France-bound utlility looks to farewell the black jersey in ideal fashion.
"I just want to do a good job whatever that role is... it's just making sure that I'm preparing for a lot of different situations and scenarios. As players, that's all we can do."
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