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Smith to lead All Blacks from the rear

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 15/06/2017

When it comes to leadership, it is sometimes best done from the rear, All Black Ben Smith says.

He is set to take the reigns as the world champion's 68th Test skipper in their season-opening clash against Samoa in Auckland on Friday night.

While the selection of a fullback as skipper in Test rugby is unusual - he will be the first to lead New Zealand since Mils Muliaina in 2009 - the 60-Test veteran can see the advantage.

This includes a clear view of the game as it unfolds.

"We can see the big picture stuff," he said.

"You can sometimes impact on a game by coming forward and if you need to have a chat with the ref [you have the benefit that] you are seeing a lot of the game from back there."

While Smith's stint in the top job is likely to be short, with regular captain Kieran Read expected to return from a thumb injury in time for next week's first Test against the British and Irish Lions, he does not lack experience for the task.

He already serves as co-captain of his Super Rugby side, the Highlanders, and will be backed by a team packed with leaders from the other franchises.

He's also "old" and "lucky" enough to have learnt from a number of inspirational All Black captains, including recently retired Richie McCaw.

But one trick he learned on his own is that man management extends beyond the players to the referees as well, with a delicate touch needed to make your point.

"I've probably learnt as I've gone along that referees have got a time when they want to be approached," he said.

"And sometimes in the heat of making a decision they just want to be left alone. So it is just finding the right times to go to them."

The referee for Friday's match is Frenchman Mathieu Raynal.

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