All Blacks: Veteran Aaron Smith credits Joe Schmidt for his impressive end-of-year form

Dylan Coetzee
All Blacks star Aaron Smith scores again Wales.

All Blacks veteran Aaron Smith believes the inclusion of Joe Schmidt as backs coach for the side was crucial in him rediscovering some of his best form.

Schmidt was not part of the original backroom staff under head coach Ian Foster but was drafted in after a series loss to Ireland, and since then the team has been significantly better going forward.

Smith was not at his best in the early stages of the 2022 Test season but soon found something to work with and built up to a magnificent performance in the Autumn Nations Series clash with Wales, including two tries.

Credit to coaches

The Test centurion openly credits Schmidt and the other coaches for his revival as he went to them in search of answers.

“He was a game changer for me,” Smith told SENZ Breakfast. “The way he saw the game, he had clips from training, he had clips from games way back, he really just gets rugby and he got my mindset.

“I had a good chat with all three coaches actually, my D (defence) was playing up a little bit in July and so I connected (with them).

“As the year went on I really went and got some help around my game and just got a clear sight of what they saw you know, they were happy but happy’s not good enough.

“I went a bit deeper and (didn’t) assume I knew the answers and that really helped going on to the tour.”

Search for improvement

The All Blacks found some solid form towards the end of the year but stumbled in their final game against England, blowing a 25-7 lead in the last 10 minutes before settling for 25-25 draw.

Smith says he has been working closely with the coaches to improve on that performance and take different opportunities.

“You’re as good as your last game,” he continued. “And (I) played okay against England and if I’d maybe played better we may not have (drawn) the game, but that’s the hunger that drives you and it reaffirmed for me something that I knew is that I always want to keep striving to get better and why not use the coaches to do that?”

“I don’t see everything and connecting with Joe, Fozzy and our D-coach (Scott McLeod) again just really helped fuel my game and when I’ve got targets to hit and things to go for and clear work-ons, organic things were happening,” he added.

“Joe wasn’t showing me clips of me running, he was just showing me opportunities, he was showing me what other nines had done and if it’s in your brain that’s what happens, things just react.

“If I hadn’t gone to get that help I don’t think I would’ve been able to find some form again at the end.”

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