Aaron Smith says pain of 2019 'sticks with you forever'

Aaron Smith says pain of 2019 ‘sticks with you forever’ but the All Blacks have a ‘burning desire’ to fix that in the Rugby World Cup final on Sunday

  • Aaron Smith discussed 2019 semi-final loss to England as a motivating factor
  • Smith, in his final week as an All Black, wants to make up for 2019 heartbreak 
  • Smith sees being in contention for a World Cup as a special moment for the team

Barely a question was asked about the match when Aaron Smith arrived in the mixed zone after New Zealand’s victory over Argentina. 

The less said about that lifeless excuse for a World Cup semi-final the better.

The conversation was all about the three Rs: regrets, retirement and redemption. The All Black immediately began to talk about the feeling that had chewed him up since 2019, when his side were crushed by England in their semi-final in Yokohama.

If it wasn’t for that humbling, Smith probably wouldn’t be here now. The 34-year-old scrum-half, who has 124 caps and a World Cup winner’s medal from 2015, is now in his final week as an All Black — and desperate to make up for what happened four years ago.

‘Disappointment, gutted, feeling like you’d let the country down,’ he said. ‘It sticks with you forever. I haven’t got over it and it’s been a good driver for me.

Aaron Smith of New Zealand gestures to the crowd after the Rugby World Cup 2019 Semi-Final

Aaron Smith makes a break to score a try during the semi-final clash with Argentina

New Zealand lost the semi-final to England in the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan

‘I’m an emotional person, I wear my heart on my sleeve and I use things like that to motivate me. Leaving Japan in 2019, I had a burning desire to fix that.

‘If I could be disciplined, set goals, stay focused I could try to make another World Cup. There’s no way I’d be here at 34 years old if I didn’t have that burning desire to do better and be a better player. 

‘This is what you play sport for. To be in this position to contend for a World Cup is just so special. We’ve taken another step in this tournament and we’re in the big dance.’

The All Blacks cruised to the final whistle on Friday with 14 men, as the management opted not to send Scott Barrett back on after his yellow card and Will Jordan ran in a hat-trick to go level with Jonah Lomu’s record World Cup haul.

Smith will move to Japan in the new season and watch the next generation of All Blacks from arm’s length.

He added: ‘We’ve got another week and it’s a real week, going for a final, not a third and fourth. You’re either in the dance or you have one of the hardest weeks. I’ve been through that kind of week, the third and fourth, and it’s not fun. This week is going to be a lot of fun.’

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