All Blacks vice-captain Smith signs new deal

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Highlanders full-back Ben Smith has ended speculation over his future by signing a new contract with New Zealand Rugby until 2020.

The All Blacks vice-captain was in the final year of his previous deal and had been linked with several French clubs.

Pro12 leaders Munster were also said to have offered Smith a lucrative contract, but the 30-year-old has opted to stay in his homeland with Super Rugby outfit Highlanders.

The versatile Smith was a key member of the All Blacks team which won the World Cup in 2015 and is set to feature in the next tournament in Japan - with the option to terminate his contract after that showpiece.

Smith said: "It's been an interesting few months as we have worked through what was best for my family and career over the next few years. In the end we are happy with our decision to stay in New Zealand.

"Obviously, the All Blacks, the Highlanders and Otago are three teams that I really enjoy playing for, and I'm pretty excited about a few of the opportunities and challenges we'll have over the next few seasons."

Smith's decision to snub a move overseas is a major boost to All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen, with Aaron Cruden having agreed to join Montpellier at the end of the season

Hansen said: "To have the most consistent player in world rugby re-signing is great news for New Zealand rugby and a real credit to our game.

"It's a real confidence booster for us to keep a player of this calibre in our country and we now look forward with excitement knowing that our vice-captain is going to be with us through to 2020."