Star halfback Aaron Smith has confirmed he won't be heading across the Tasman to rejoin the All Blacks for the rest of the Rugby Championship.
The 32-year-old chose to stay in New Zealand for the birth of his second child and although his baby isn't due until November, the scarcity of MIQ spots means the risk of missing the occasion is too high.
Instead, the All Blacks' latest test centurion will play for his beloved Manawatu Turbos in the National Provincial Championship.
"There's a silver lining here about not being with the All Blacks," says Smith.
"I'm only five games short of 50 for the Turbos and excited about hopefully making that milestone."
He last appeared for the Turbos in a cameo during the 2020 provincial championship. Manawatu will host Northland on September 25 for their first game since the national COVID-19 alert levels put the competition on hold last month.
Smith says there's still a chance he'll be able to link with the squad for the European leg of their mammoth tour, which begins against Wales on October 31 (NZ time).
"The door isn't completely closed to me joining the team for the northern tour if our baby comes early," he adds. "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."
Fellow All Blacks starters Sam Whitelock and Richie Mo'unga also chose to stay home for the birth of their respective children.
Both have since entered quarantine in Queensland and hope to be available for the final Rugby Championship test against South Africa on October 2.
In their three Rugby Championship to tests to date, the All Blacks have interchanged TJ Perenara and Brad Weber as Smith's replacement at halfback.
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