Aaron Smith lines up a tackle as Italy's Edoardo Gori runs
at him. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith is fighting through a
rough patch in his impressive test debut season.
He was troubled against the Wallabies in Brisbane and the
Italians got into him yesterday at the impressive Stadio
Olimpico in Rome.
Not that Smith got much protection from his forwards or
necessary vigilance from referee Alain Rolland. Several times
he was cleaned up when the Italians came from the side or
early. But they hovered and took their chances with Rolland's
judgement around the rucks and tackled ball areas.
"I think the ref wanted to get a bit of flow and was letting
a bit go, and they weren't really trying to go into the rucks
to get the ball, they were just trying to menace it," Smith
said. "They were coming round and kicking at the ball, but
... the onus is on the ball carrier and he was losing it and
our cleaners were going heads down and not hitting the right
Smith reckoned he was barking orders at the pack which went
unheeded, which meant Italy was allowed to come through and
"I definitely gave them a good drumming but I was playing the
same drums for a bit there. I was saying, 'Help me out here
boys, give me a bit of protection'," he said.
Smith had his left knee strapped after the test but the
medics thought it was just bruising and no problems in his
joust with Piri Weepu to start the next test against Wales.
The halfback was rested for the last quarter and thought much
of the early hard work drew the dividends with three late
"It felt like we created a lot but did not finish, which is
something we do pretty well.
The little things weren't working but that's footy and it is
never going to be a perfect game.
"That's one thing we [learned] from the Scotland game, that
you can't just break them down every time. In the first half
we were a bit guilty of trying to score from anywhere. We
showed them a lack of respect."
Perversely, Smith said he enjoyed the struggle; that was what
he expected from test rugby.
International rugby was rarely an armchair ride.
He did not want to throw Hail Mary passes towards first
five-eighths Aaron Cruden and sometimes had to take the hit