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Smith returns to New Zealand for pending birth of 1st child, likely to miss Bledisloe test

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SYDNEY - Conrad Smith has returned to New Zealand pending the birth of his first child and is likely to miss New Zealand's Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup series opener against Australia on Saturday.

All Blacks team officials on Friday said the 77-test veteran and his wife, Leanne, were likely to become parents two weeks ahead of schedule, so Smith flew home to Wellington to be there for the birth.

Malakai Fekitoa was elevated to the starting lineup in the centres and Ryan Crotty flew to Australia from Christchurch to fill Fekitoa's spot on the reserves bench in the likely event that Smith doesn't make it back to Sydney in time for the match.

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