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Smith Bounces Back From Horror First Touch

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Smith Bounces Back From Horror First Touch

By Mark Geenty of NZPA

Milan, Nov 15 NZPA - First touch of the ball in a rugby international, and All Blacks winger Ben Smith wanted the San Siro turf to swallow him up.

As he shelled a regulation up-and-under from Italy halfback Tito Tebaldi, it had the potential to be one of those nightmare debuts.

But the 23-year-old Otago utility showed he was made of tougher stuff as he emerged from his first test with credit as the All Blacks won 20-6.

"You've always got to believe. I hardly ever make those mistakes so I just had to back my instincts and get on from there," he said.

"I thought I bounced back from the dropped ball, got stuck into everything and that was my goal, to go hard with everything I did."

There were no blemishes from then on as Smith showed safe hands, ran strongly and looked the part in several more touches on a frustrating day for the backs.

It earned him a verbal pat on the back from All Blacks attack coach Steve Hansen.

"Ben played particularly well, he got away to a particularly horrid start but showed a lot of composure and I think we'll see a lot more of him."

Smith was one of three All Blacks debutants, with first five-eighth Mike Delany and centre Tamati Ellison both emerging frustrated from their first tastes of test rugby.

Delany said the occasion was amazing at a packed San Siro, but the forwards' struggles against a spoiling Italian pack made it tough.

"Once I was out there it was just another game and I just wanted to get into it and get the boys forward, but our breakdown was pretty slow and it was hard to get any momentum going," he said.

Still, he was bombarded with texts from home from proud family and friends after fulltime.

"It really hits home when all that support comes in."

Ellison had few touches in a kick-dominated test, and had mixed feelings afterwards.

"It was an amazing day, great to finally become an All Black and run onto the pitch. It wasn't a fairytale but it's rugby and I enjoyed the experience.

"There weren't many chances. I was trying to reload on defence and pull guys out of rucks, I think I chased kicks all day, made one tackle and dropped the ball..."

Coach Hansen admitted it was tough for his three backline newcomers.

"There was no flow and obviously a lot of whistle which made it difficult to get anything going."

The trio will likely get one more chance to show their wares in the starting line-up, in the tour-ending Barbarians match at Twickenham on December 5.


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