Former All Blacks centre Conrad Smith has begun his career in coaching, only seven weeks after playing his last game of professional rugby.
Smith, who played 94 Tests as an outside centre for the All Blacks, 43 games for Wellington, 126 games for the Hurricanes and 52 for Top 14 club Pau, has joined the coaching staff of Pau, where former All Blacks Colin Slade, Tom Taylor, Frank Halai, Jamie Mackintosh and Benson Stanley are in the club squad.
Smith told French rugby newspaper Midi Olympique that as soon as he had played his last game he cut off the weight training but was still running because he enjoyed that.
“I always like to run and even if I stop the rugby I am still very active,” he said.
Smith said during his off season he had reflected on what he wanted to do and had discussions with players and other coaches in Europe and New Zealand and opted for the defence coaching role with the club.
“I have been thinking about what we can change, what other teams are doing well, what we can imitate, or adapt, to suit us,” he added.
“In rugby there is never only one way to do things. A defensive system may suit one team but not another and because of that it is important to observe, understand and adapt.”
Smith said there was still plenty to learn about the game he had graced.
“During my career I’ve always played the same position, without really being interested in the forwards but now I have to take account of all the parameters,” explained the 36-year-old.
“I have to accept the fact that I still don’t know a lot about rugby and that I will compensate for this by talking with players and coaches. Of course, I also hope that my playing experience will be a help, but I know perfectly well that good players do not necessarily become good coaches.”