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Smith and Nonu on verge of midfield record

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James Mortimer     01 Sep 2014     Getty Images

Nonu’s absence led to Ryan Crotty partnering Conrad Smith in the midfield in the All Blacks 51-20 win over Australia at Eden Park.

A week earlier, Smith lined up alongside Malakai Fekitoa in the 12-12 draw in Sydney.

For the All Blacks coaching team, it has been a valuable exercise, building depth in their midfield which will only be bolstered further when Sonny Bill Williams returns to New Zealand.

Nonu and Smith, with 92 and 78 Tests respectively, have started together at international level on 52 previous occasions, a mark only bettered by Irish pair Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy (54).

The ultimate yin and yang couple, despite now being recognised as one of the blue chip partnerships, were originally, according to the humble pair, just trying to work things out.

“(We) started off just fending for ourselves and then got thrown together as a combination and sort of were just doing our own thing,” Smith said.

“But we we're encouraged to actually learn from each other and grow a bit more and I think we've done that probably in the last sort of four or five years since that last World Cup.”