Smith rejects Olympic offer

Date published: August 13 2015

All Black full-back Ben Smith has turned down the opportunity to play for New Zealand at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Smith was viewed as a potential member of NZ Sevens coach Gordon Tietjens' squad for the Olympics, but he has told the Highlanders management that he wants to be part of their Super Rugby title defence.

The 29-year-old was part of New Zealand's squad that won a gold medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi and it is understood he had a clause in his contract with the New Zealand Rugby Union which allowed him to play at the Olympics but he has decided to stay at home.

Tietjens has already forwarded around 40 names to the New Zealand Olympic Committee as part of his preparations for the Olympics, but Smith has indicated that he didn't want to be on it.

A New Zealand Rugby spokesman confirmed the deadline for Tietjens' list was August 5 and that a 26-member squad will be finalised in November.

An initial squad of 20 is set to be named next week.

Highlanders chief executive Roger Clark said the Dunedin-based franchise greeted Smith's decision with enthusiasm because players who make themselves available for the Olympics are set to miss most, if not all, of the Super Rugby tournament.

"He is not going to the Sevens," Clark told Fairfax Media

"It wasn't something we discussed with him at all. It was a decision that he made and then we found out about it. It wasn't something we had any involvement in.

"Obviously we were pretty pleased when he made it because he is a vital part of our make-up, that is for sure."

Fellow All Blacks Kieran Read and Aaron Cruden have also indicated they want to concentrate on the 15-man game next year while Liam Messam, Sonny Bill Williams, Julian and Ardie Savea, Beauden Barrett and Victor Vito have been touted as potential members of Tietjens' squad for the Olympics.