Smith to leave All Blacks role

New Zealand Rugby is paying tribute to All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith, who has announced he is stepping down from his All Blacks role.

Smith, who is widely regarded as having one of the smartest rugby brains in world rugby, will leave the All Blacks at the end of the Rugby Championship and take a break from the game.

He played 35 matches, including 17 Tests for the All Blacks between 1980 and 1985 before embarking on his outstanding coaching career.  His coaching involvement with the All Blacks stretches back to 1998 and is highlighted by back-to-back wins at the Rugby World Cup in 2011 and 2015.  In recent years, he's had a specialist role looking after defence.

Smith recently celebrated his 60th birthday and said the time was right to step down from full-time coaching.

"It's unbelievable to think that I've been involved in playing and coaching with the All Blacks for 20 years, a third of my life. I've had an incredible time and shared in some fantastic experiences,” he said.

 But it's time to hang up my coach's whistle for a while, take a bit of a hiatus, freshen up and spend some more time with my wife Trish and our family."

"I want to thank Steve Tew, Steve Hansen and Gilbert Enoka who have been constants in my career since our Canterbury days. They've provided longstanding support and friendship for many years which I'm very thankful for.

"I'd also like to acknowledge Sir Graham Henry who gave me the opportunity to return to the All Blacks coaching set up in 2004. I really appreciated that, as well as the guidance he gave me.”

New Zealand Rugby will now advertise for a replacement for Smith's position, with the aim of having the new coach join the All Blacks coaching team for this year's Rugby Championship, which kicks off in August.