Ben Smith and Nehe Milner Skudder opt to stay in New Zealand
New Zealand rugby received a huge boost as they build towards this summer's Lions series and beyond.
Star full-back Ben Smith and speedster winger Nehe Milner-Skudder have both signed on to play in New Zealand until the next World Cup in Japan in 2019.
Speaking at the announcement of the deal which keeps him in the southern hemisphere until 2020, 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,” he added.
New Zealand's Nehe Milner-Skudder runs in a try. Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Milner-Skudder has signed up with New Zealand until 2019 and will remain at the Wellington Hurricanes. Speaking on his new deal he said: "My partner and I really enjoy living in Wellington and with the British and Irish Lions on the horizon, 2017 shapes as a huge year.
"It's been an absolute honour to represent my country and wear the All Blacks jersey and the only way to do that again is to stay in New Zealand," he added.
Both players played a pivotal part as the All Blacks became the first country to retain the World Cup when they beat Austrtalia in the final in Twickenham in 2015.
New Zealand welcome the Lions to their shores this summer for the first time since 2005.