Always someone coming through: Smith

Ben Smith.
Ben Smith.
No-one is irreplaceable.

Even Ben Smith.

The All Black outside back will join French club Pau after this year's World Cup.

When he leaves, someone else will step up and we will soon forget all about the dashing fullback-cum-wing.

Well, at least that is what you can read into the comments Smith made in relation to news Highlanders lock Jackson Hemopo will leave New Zealand to play professionally in Japan next season.

Players like Hemopo do not typically leave - it tends to be players who are reaching the end of their career or who have lost touch of their dreams to play for the All Blacks.

Hemopo does not fit into either category but the 25-year-old is going, anyway. It is blow for New Zealand rugby, although Smith does not believe the national body should be too concerned.

''There is always guys coming through,'' Smith said.

''The depth in New Zealand is so strong. There are a lot of new guys coming through and performing really well.

''I think that is a credit to our system and how things have gone over the last few years as far as pathways for guys to become professional athletes. I don't think it is problem.''

Smith is ever hopeful Hemopo will return to New Zealand and the Highlanders at some stage.

''Everyone makes different choices about what is right for them at the time. That is right for him and his family and I know from the Highlanders' point of view we wish him all the best.

''He still has a few more years in him, so you never know. Obviously, there has been guys in our squad who have gone over to Japan and come back for the Highlanders.

''Jax might go and do a stint over there and we might see him back at the Highlanders at some point. He is still young enough to do that.''

Hemopo is not playing in the derby against the Crusaders at Forsyth Barr Stadium tomorrow night.

Smith has been named at fullback and will mark David Havili, who is the sort of player you might imagine Smith was talking about when he spoke of the talent coming through the ranks.

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