Rugby: All Blacks great Ben Smith to make shock return to club rugby

  • 25/06/2021

Former All Blacks star Ben Smith will make a surprise return to club rugby this weekend.

The 84-test World Cup winner will take the field for his beloved Green Island in Dunedin to bring up a long-awaited milestone.

In 2019, Smith left New Zealand rugby after the Rugby World Cup to take up a contract with France Top 14 team Pau, leaving him stranded on 49 games for the Grizzlies.

Now back in New Zealand, the 35-year-old will be back in action against Kaikorai at Miller Park on Saturday. 

Smith is currently contracted to Japan side Kobelco Steelers, playing under director and former All Blacks coach Wayne Smith.

Green Island chairman Blair Bezett says they had working on gaining permission from the Steelers to make his club comeback for a while.

"Probably going back two or three seasons now, but finally in 2021 the stars have aligned and it’s worked out well for our heritage weekend,” Bezett tells Stuff.

"I don't annoy our coach too much but hopefully Ben will start and hopefully he’s out there for as long as possible. It would be fantastic to see him play for 80 minutes.

"It's testament to Ben, he’s just a great all-round guy, and a great family man. He's never forgotten his roots at Green Island.

"He's a proud Green Islander. He grew up in our area. He's always happy to come back and help out."

All Blacks halfback TJ Perenara also made a rare club appearance last weekend, playing for his boyhood team Norths against rivals Tawa.