Ben Smith

Concussion expert concerned for Ben Smith

Smith suffered his third concussion since February - and sixth in the past five years -  during the All Blacks' 30-15 win against the British and Irish Lions in Auckland on Saturday night. 

Fulcher, an Auckland-based sport and exercise physician for Axis Sports Medicine Specialists, said the frequency of Smith's injuries were "concerning", and he would discuss retirement or a break from the game if he were to sit down with the 31-year-old. 

Smith and Squire back for the Highlanders

Smith was a late scratching for the Highlanders last weekend after suffering a hamstring strain during the warmups.

He had previously missed two games with concussion.

Squire has been out of action since suffering a knee injury in the second round in early March.

Preparing for what will no doubt be a physical encounter coach Tony Brown has restored Daniel Lienert-Brown, Siosuia Halanukonuka, Alex Ainley and Elliot Dixon to the starting eight.

Squire makes his return after four weeks on the sideline and will make an impact from the bench.

Highlanders win second consecutive match after dispatching Rebels

Smith tweaked a hamstring at training on Thursday and wasn't risked, leaving him to sit on the sideline at Forsyth Barr Stadium and watch his team nab a bonus point win against the winless Rebels. 

Smith's injury isn't serious - he could return to play the Blues at home next Saturday night - and meant Matt Faddes started at fullback and Tei Walden shuffled into the match-day 23.  

Up 20-0 with only 25 minutes on the clock against a lethargic and error riddled outfit from Melbourne, the game was as good as over. 

Ben Smith's future 'in the balance' as NZ Rugby could lose two of big three

Now there is a very real possibility two of those three high-profile stars will leave these shores by the end of this year.

It is enough to make the All Blacks coach sit up in his summer deckchair. Should that scenario eventuate, it would again create cause for concern around the vulnerability of elite New Zealand players.

Where previously NZ Rugby have been "quietly confident" of keeping the likes of All Blacks captain Kieran Read, Owen Franks and Beauden Barrett, when it comes to Smith indications are his decision remains very much "in the balance".

NZ Rugby moves to keep Smith, Dagg and Cruden in New Zealand

RNZ reports the union has tabled its final deals for Ben Smith, Israel Dagg and Aaron Cruden, and says it will give them the time they need to make a decision.

The trio's contracts end after the British and Irish Lions tour in June and all three have received lucrative offers to join French clubs.

While conceding New Zealand Rugby would never be able to match the big money bids from overseas, NZR chief executive Steve Tew said they had done all they could to retain the services of the three key backs.