Aaron Smith

Sam Cane and Aaron Smith to start for All Blacks

Cane, who has spent most of the season out with injury, returns to the loose forward trio that includes the introduction of Akira Ioane, who is on the blindside and Ardie Savea at number eight.

Dane Coles starts at hooker.

There are four changes in the backs from the side that lost to Ireland, with Aaron Smith starting at halfback, Richie Mo'unga at first-five the injured Beauden Barrett, Quinn Tupaea at centre for the injured Anton Lienert-Brown and George Bridge coming onto the left wing.

Aaron Smith back with All Blacks

Smith was expected to miss the entire season-ending northern hemisphere tour to stay home with family after the birth of his second son Leo but could line up in the final two tests against the Irish and France.

"It all happened very quickly and now I'm two hours from jumping on the plane to join the boys in Ireland," Smith said in a video posted on the All Blacks' social media account on Tuesday.

"I've very excited to come back and join the boys ... Two very big games for the lads, which is really exciting to be part of.

Aaron Smith looking forward to linking up with former All Black

The All Blacks revealed on Wednesday that the 32-year-old halfback will remain in NZ for the remainder of the competition due to the impending arrival of his second child. There’s a small chance that Smith could join the squad for their northern tour, but the safer bet would be that his test season is done and dusted for the year.

Smith will, however, continue to take the field, and has linked up with Manawatu for the remainder of New Zealand’s provincial season.

Smith to miss Rugby Championship

Smith stayed in New Zealand to be with his family awaiting the birth of his second child.

He will join his Manawatu team this week to train and play in the NPC this season.

Smith said the increasing unlikelihood of getting an MIQ spot to return to New Zealand for the birth was the reason for staying in New Zealand.

His baby isn't due until November but he said he didn't want to risk not being here for the birth.

"The door isn't completely closed to me joining the team for the Northern Tour if our baby comes early.

Aaron Smith and Dan Carter named greatest All Blacks No 9 and 10

As part of Sky Sport’s quest to find New Zealand’s Greatest XV, a panel of leading journalists and broadcasters – Grant Nisbett, Ken Laban, Rikki Swannell and Phil Gifford – were last week asked by The Breakdown who they thought were the country’s best-ever halfback and first-five.

The panel were unanimous in their verdict that Smith, the current All Blacks No 9, and Carter, the two-time World Cup-winning No 10, were New Zealand’s greatest halves pairing.

Aaron Smith admits they didn't follow the game plan

Despite a 33-25 win in Bledisloe I, the All Blacks were put through an unflattering review on Monday, where players were held accountable for their mistakes.

However, Smith vowed the team's game managers wouldn’t repeat their tactical errors in Bledisloe II at Eden Park on Saturday.

“We had a plan around how we wanted to exit and get our forwards in the game early,” Smith told The Breakdown on Sky on Monday evening.

“But there was just so many opportunities. We fell into that trap of, ‘we could go on here, it’s hot here, we could do this’.

Smith earns All Blacks captaincy, will Fiji be any better than Tonga?

Smith will lead the All Blacks against Fiji in Dunedin on Saturday and the question is, will the Flying Fijians pose a bigger challenge than the under strength Tongans who overcame a mountain of obstacles just to field a team last week at Mt Smart?

The All Blacks coach Ian Foster has made 13 changes to his starting XV from the one that crushed Tonga and he said Smith deserves the right to captain the side against Fiji.

Aaron Smith returns as Highlanders look to secure Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final spot

With a place in the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final on the line, the Highlanders have left no stone unturned as they have named a full-strength side to take on the Super Rugby AU runners-up at GIO Stadium on Friday.

In doing so, interim head coach Clarke Dermody has reinstated Smith into the No 9 jersey after the seasoned veteran was rested during last week’s 59-23 thumping of the Waratahs in Dunedin.

The 32-year-old takes the place of Kayne Hammington, who is demoted to the bench after celebrating his 50th appearance for the Highlanders against the Waratahs.

Highlanders halfback Aaron Smith heaps pressure on Reds: 'They've just won a comp'

Reds flanker Fraser McReight told Australian reporters this week the Reds were “sort of underdogs” based on the betting markets set by the bookies, but Smith was having none of that argument before the clash at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

“With the Reds, they’ve just won a comp so they can claim the underdog tag all they want,” Smith said. "They’re the best team in Australia and they are coming here.

“I’ve played plenty of Aussie teams saying that, ‘Oh, we are the underdogs’, but they don’t think that.

Aaron Smith says Super Rugby is still brutal

The Crusaders have lost mid-field back Jack Goodhue for the year, the Chiefs are without captain Same Cane long term because of a shoulder injury, while the Hurricanes captain Ardie Savea is out for up to eight weeks with a knee injury.

Smith has again highlighted the intensity of the local competition which became a major talking point last year when Covid-19 forced the five New Zealand sides to play amongst themselves.