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No retirement plans for 'smart' Smith

Mon, 06 May 2013 21:24
Large conrad smith treated Large conrad smith knocked out Large conrad smith down

Veteran All Black midfielder Conrad Smith has no plans to retire just yet, despite concerns about his long-term health.

There may be concerns for Hurricanes captain Conrad Smith, following yet another major head knock, but he has no retirement plans at the moment.

The 31-year-old All Black centre was stretchered off just short of the half-hour mark in the Hurricanes' 14-48 loss to the Bulls in Pretoria at the weekend, after getting his head on the wrong side in attempting to tackle Bulls counterpart JJ Engelbrecht.

He was rushed to hospital for scans, after it was feared he may have injured his neck in a collision that left him unconscious for almost a minute.

However, the scans all came back clear and his only lingering issue is the latest incidence of concussion.

Some sections of the New Zealand media suggested  Smith may be forced to rethink his glittering career following his history with major head knocks.

He first encountered problems back in 2006, when he blacked out during a match, and only six weeks ago failed a pitch-side concussion test after an onfield collision.

However, Smith opted to stay with the team and travel with the Hurricanes to Bloemfontein for the second match of their South African tour - where they will meet the Cheetahs on Friday.

Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett, speaking ahead of the Bloemfontein showdown, confirmed that Smith has been ruled out of this week's match.

However, he was unable to say whether the All Black star would be able to play again this season or exactly how long he will be sidelined.

What he was very clear about, is that Smith has not made mention of any retirement thoughts just yet.

"He is doing very well actually," Hammett said, when asked about the team's first-choice captain.

"Obviously he took very limited part in training [in Monday], but in terms of his general well-being he is very up-beat and in much better shape than we thought he would be."

Asked about the previous incidents of concussion and a suggestion that Smith's career is under threat, Hammett said they don't know when the All Black star will be back on the field.

"We have to be really careful with these things, but we have no doubt we've got the best people looking after that.

"Conrad [Smith] is a very, very smart man as well - there is now way he will put himself at undue risk."

Pushed on the issue of Smith's history with concussion, the Hurricanes coach deflected the question: "That is something you need to ask Conrad - he needs to tell you [the media].

"From my perspective he seems very chirpy and quite upbeat."

Hammett said Smith wanted to stay in South Africa with the team.

"However, he is a smart man and won't do anything that will hurt him in the long run.

"We had that discussion with Conrad [about returning home] and we left it up to Conrad."

The coach said even though he is not playing, he is still going to be of benefit to the team this week, as they look to bounce back from the hammering they suffered at the hands of the Bulls.

"He is very well respected [in the team]," Hammett said, adding: "Obviously there will be another player in his No.13 [jersey] and he will help that person and it is probably the best [outside] centre in the world to guide that person."

He said it will depend on all the neurocognitive tests if Smith will play again this season.

"He went through a test on Sunday and failed that one. There will be more tests this week to see his ability to do light training, which is the process that is always followed."

The coach was giving nothing away in terms of a replacement, saying the team to face the Cheetahs will be named on Wednesday.

By Jan de Koning

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