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All Blacks always the priority, Smith says

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 26/05/2017

Ben Smith of the Highlanders looks on. © Dianne Manson/Getty Images Ben Smith of the Highlanders looks on. Highlanders captain Ben Smith said there was never a chance he would skip an All Blacks game to play for his beloved Super Rugby franchise.

The All Blacks fullback has a clause in his contract allowing him to play for the Highlanders over the national side if the situation allowed.

The clause was initiated with an eye to the British and Irish Lions series, but prior to the confirmation of the tourists' schedule.

"There's no doubt I love playing for the Highlanders," Smith told reporters on Friday.

"It's awesome we're getting a crack at the British and Irish Lions and that's going to be massive for the team, but if selected I'd love to play for the All Blacks."

Since the schedule was announced, the All Blacks have added a pre-Lions clash with Samoa in Auckland three days after the Highlanders-Lions match.

"Looking back at the time (of the clause), there was no (Highlanders-Lions) game scheduled, so I thought it might've been possible to play for both and not been an issue.

"But things have changed since then."

The Highlanders captain returns on Saturday after being sidelined by injury for the last three weeks.

In that time, the southerners have recorded wins in South Africa against the Cheetahs (45-41) and Bulls (17-10), before notching an eighth consecutive competition victory with a convincing 55-6 win over the Force in Perth.

The Waratahs arrive in Dunedin after dismantling the Rebels 50-23 in Sydney. It was their fourth win in 11 matches, and leaves them sitting four points behind the conference-leading Brumbies.

Led by the Wallabies trio of Bernard Foley, Michael Hooper and Israel Folau, the visitors will be eyeing their first win in Dunedin since 2008, and Smith is under no illusion about the challenge they pose.

"They played really well against the Rebels, and showed when they really nail their game they can be really dangerous.

"I'm sure they're going to come here tomorrow and want to put pressure on us and attack, because that's what they've been doing."

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