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Rugby Championship
Conrad Smith flies home to be with pregnant wife
August 15, 2014
Greg Growden previews the Bledisloe Cup Test

Conrad Smith is in serious doubt for the Bledisloe Cup opener against Australia at ANZ Stadium in Sydney after rushing home for the birth of his first child. Steve Hansen confirmed that rookie Malakai Fekitoa will slot in at outside centre if Smith is unable to return in time.

Hansen said Smith's wife, Lee-Ann, was due to give birth to the couple's first child in a couple of weeks but the pregnancy had advanced on Thursday night.

"It looks like she's going to come a little bit early ... she started showing signs last night," Hansen said.

"If it goes really well he could possibly be back, but we're not holding our breath on that."

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw has backed first-year All Blacks test player Malakai Fekitoa to do the job.

"It's happened enough times over the past and just look at the last Test we played where Conrad broke his thumb so ... Malakai was the last guy who played at centre in our last Test so him slotting in will be fine," he said. "At the end of the day, if you let those things influence what happens on the weekend, I think you haven't really got your environment set up right. So hopefully everyone's aware of what's going on and prepared as such and they'll be ready to go.

Conrad Smith will be a huge loss for the All Blacks if he misses the game © Getty Images
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"What we've done this week, as we do every week, is sort out how we're going to shut them down, and if a guy like Malakai comes in he just needs to fill in that role that Conrad's left."

McCaw hasn't totally given up on Smith playing, but said that was unlikely.

"We just expect that he's not going to be here and, if he comes back and is ready to go, he is one guy that would do that no trouble," he said. "I guess if all goes well today ... but I think from our point of view we just expect that he's not going to be here and Malakai will slot in no trouble I'm sure so that's what we're planning."

Crusaders centre Ryan Crotty will take Fekitoa's place on the bench after being summoned from New Zealand.

© AAP
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