All Black Smith commits to New Zealand through 2023 World Cup

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - New Zealand Training - The Lensbury, Teddington, Britain - November 8, 2018 New Zealand's Aaron Smith during training Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith has re-signed with New Zealand Rugby through to the 2023 World Cup in France.

Smith, the most capped New Zealand scrumhalf of all-time with 97 test appearances, will also remain with his long-time provincial side Otago Highlanders as part of his extension.

"Last year was a tough one for sport, but hopefully we'll soon see the world rugby calendar start to take shape and there'll be plenty of exciting, new challenges to look forward to," the 32-year-old said in a New Zealand Rugby release on Tuesday.

Smith was starting scrumhalf in the All Blacks' 2015 World Cup final win over Australia at Twickenham and during their run to the semi-finals in Japan last year.

All Blacks coach Ian Foster hailed Smith's recommitment.

"He is so instrumental in the way we play the game and is such a vital cog for us, both on and off the field, so this is fantastic news," he said.

Smith played his 151st match with the Highlanders in New Zealand's domestic Super Rugby Aotearoa competition over the weekend and is only two away from reaching fellow All Black Ben Smith's record (153) at the club.

"As co-captain, 'Nug' is a huge part of this team," Highlanders coach Tony Brown said.

"He continues to be world class and works extremely hard to maintain it. That hard work and professionalism is a fantastic example to the rest of the team, particularly the young fellows coming into the team."

(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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