Planet Rugby

Leali'ifano backs Smith for POTY

27th November 2013 06:03

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Australia centre Christian Leali'ifano believes New Zealand back Ben Smith should take home the IRB Player of the Year Award.

Smith is one of five nominees for the prestigious title along with team-mate Kieran Read, South Africa's Eben Etzebeth, Italy's Sergio Parisse and Wales' Leigh Halfpenny.

Speaking ahead of facing Wales this weekend in Cardiff, Leali'ifano is backing Smith to win the award after his excellent performances against the Wallabies this year.

"You can't go against the number one team in the world with Kieran and Ben being nominated," Leali'ifano told WalesOnline.

"I'd go for Ben. He's come into the All Blacks team, played in different positions and has scored some great tries this year, game-winning tries, especially against us!"

Leali'ifano however did also reserve praise for Halfpenny, after going up against the Welshman during the British and Irish Lions tour earlier this year.

"He's a sharp-shooter - he's proven that his whole career," added Leali'ifano.

"Halfpenny is a fantastic all-round player. He's done some fantastic things for Wales and the Lions.

"Good on him for being nominated for IRB award. He's great with ball in hand, is very quick and a fantastic runner."

The Brumbies back also admitted he was disappointed with his kicking performance against Scotland at Murrayfield, when a rare off-day with the boot saw Leali'ifano miss five attempts at goal.

The 26-year-old however stated that when it came to goal-kicking in matches, it was never about a personal duel but getting enough points to finish on the right side of the scoreboard.

"I never see it as a battle. I hope I kick my goals because a lot of Test matches come down to small margins. We have got to put ourselves in a position to take a win," stated Leali'ifano.

"We have got to improve our discipline to limit his chances. I rate his kicking ability highly. If we give away penalties, he's going to punish us. It's going to be tough, no doubt about it.

"You've got to adapt to the conditions. Halfpenny has got to kick on the same pitch as me.

"I was disappointed with how I kicked in Scotland but just glad it didn't really cost the team. That's the big thing I was worried about."

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