Ben Smith ready to return for Highlanders opener

Ben Smith at trains at Forsyth Barr Stadium earlier this year. Photo: ODT
Ben Smith knows a thing or two about injuries, having missed a chunk of time last season due to ailments. Photo: ODT

Highlanders co-captain Ben Smith is hoping his new nickname won't stick.

After chipping a tooth in a preseason match against the Waratahs, his teammates decided with the new season would come a new moniker for the fullback.

"When I got my tooth knocked out in that last game, I made sure I got it fixed pretty quick smart because I was getting called Lloyd for bit there – Lloyd Christmas (from Dumb and Dumber).

"It's just something that happens in footy, you get a few injuries and a few nicknames come from it."

Smith knows a thing or two about injuries, having missed a chunk of time last season due to ailments.

Smith played in nine of the Highlanders' 16 matches last season, and said he was looking forward to getting into the new season after a good break.

"My body's been really good in the fact that I've been able to give it a bit of time and been able to put a bit of energy back into it so hopefully I can start as good as I can in Super Rugby."

The 31-year-old admitted he felt a bit rusty in the preseason match against Waratahs earlier in the month, however he felt he was starting to come right just in time for the season to kick off.

But he knows the step up from preseason to the regular season is a big one, with the Highlanders opening their campaign hosting the Blues at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Friday night.

"The Blues are another step up," Smith said. "They're a team that can get it to the likes of their back three a cause a bit of damage."

Highlanders hooker Ash Dixon was another player eager to get back on the park this season, as his season was also shortened by injuries last year. The 29-year-old played in just six of the Highlanders' matches last season.

"It was pretty frustrating last year being injured and that, and it took me a while to really find my feet. But I've put all that behind me now and had a pretty good break and just looking forward to playing this weekend.

"We just want to express ourselves and go out and play some football."

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