Rugby: Smith concussion another headache for Hammett

Conrad Smith
Conrad Smith
Conrad Smith's travel plans this week are still to be decided after the All Blacks centre failed a sideline concussion test in the Hurricanes' defeat by the Blues in Wellington.

Smith, the Hurricanes' captain, was to undergo a fitness test today, after which he would be monitored for headaches. If he suffers any adverse effects, he won't be on the plane for the match against the Reds in Brisbane on Friday night.

The Hurricanes leave on Wednesday but no announcement will be made on Smith's inclusion until tomorrow.

"He needs to pass the physical test now," coach Mark Hammett said this afternoon. "If he's not cleared then he won't [fly to Brisbane]. He needs to be cleared today to be able to pass that seven-day protocol.

"He's in pretty good shape and in pretty good spirits.

"He generally doesn't have a lot of knocks. He's had a few eye injuries but this is not an eye injury. I think he'll be fine."

Smith left the Westpac Stadium field after colliding with Rene Ranger in the 70th minute of the 34-20 defeat, a dispiriting one for the Hurricanes who had plenty of opportunities to punish the Blues.

The Pitch Side Concussion Assessment has been introduced to Super Rugby this season.

Hammett added: "He got a knock, but he felt fine. He felt fine straight after the game when I was talking to him, but that doesn't always determine how bad a concussion is."

One of the worst concussions Smith has suffered came in 2010 when he blacked out after taking the ball into a tackle.

His most serious eye injury was a detached retina, suffered while playing for the Hurricanes last season.

He passed a psychometric concussion test this morning, with a physical test the next step in the process. If Smith passes that he will be allowed to take part in contact training.

Smith's leadership could be crucial against the Reds, who have had a mixed start to the season. They lost the opener against the Brumbies in Canberra but beat their biggest rivals the Waratahs at their Suncorp Stadium home in the weekend.

The Reds under Ewen McKenzie are often difficult customers at home and adding to the difficulties for the Hurricanes is the late kick-off - 8.20pm local time or 11.20pm in New Zealand.

Also monitoring Smith's recovery will be All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.

The 30-year-old Smith is said to be taking a sabbatical later this year and won't be available for the All Blacks' European tour. With Richard Kahui recovering from shoulder surgery and leaving the Chiefs for Japan at the end of the Super Rugby season, and Tamati Ellison also making a comeback from an operation, Hansen needs options for the No13 jersey.

Tim Nanai-Williams was outstanding there for the Chiefs in the victory over the Highlanders, scoring two tries in the process, but is very inexperienced.

Highlander Ben Smith is looming as a safe option, with Rene Ranger also in the frame if he can impress at the Blues this season.

Crusader Robbie Fruean will want to press his claims against Ranger at Eden Park on Friday night. It will be the Crusaders' first competition match of the season after a bye in round one.