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Smith to learn from Pumas struggle: Hansen

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 12/09/2016
Aaron Smith loses the ball during the test against Argentina on the weekend. © Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images Aaron Smith loses the ball during the test against Argentina on the weekend.

Eighty minutes after being called the world's best player, Aaron Smith was heeding a chilly message from his All Blacks coach.

Halfback Smith's unusually early 48th-minute subbing against Argentina in Hamilton was because he didn't handle the pressure well enough, Steve Hansen said.

Replacement TJ Perenara made an enormous impact as New Zealand powered home to a 57-22 win in Saturday's Rugby Championship Test.

"Aaron got put under massive amounts of pressure, debatable if it was all onside pressure, but that's irrelevant," Hansen said.

"He has to learn to cope with that and he got himself in a wee tangle and now he's going to be forced to look at that. How do I deal with it?"

It was a reality check for 27-year-old Smith, who has been untouchable as the All Blacks' first-choice No.9 since his debut in 2012, racking up 53 Tests in rapid time.

His quick distribution, decision-making and fitness prompted newly-appointed British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland to describe him as rugby's most influential current player.

Gatland, who admitted he was on an All Blacks spying mission ahead of next year's Lions tour, echoed the sentiments of former Wallabies great Tim Horan regarding Smith's elite status.

However, Hansen said the diminutive half can now expect teams to niggle him after he became distracted by the Pumas' combative early work at the breakdown.

"Aaron got caught in getting into the contest and trying to pick it up and organise, rather than just clear it straight off the deck which is his great strength.

"He can get frustrated at the best of times, that's why he's so good, he's such a competitor. But he's got to learn to channel that in the right direction and cope with those moments."

Hansen was impressed by Perenara's impact, in what was his 18th bench appearance in a 22-cap career.

It was one of Perenara's best, Hansen said, particularly in terms of his fluent ball-clearance.

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