As Mike Delaney stood in the centre of the field, ball in hand, waiting for referee Stuart Dickinson to give the signal to commence the tenth encounter between the All Blacks and the Azzurri, debutant Ben Smith hovered on the right-hand touchline, anxiously awaiting to ignite his international career.
Smith’s selection came as no surprise as the then 22 year old had been in blistering form in his first season for the Highlanders in Super Rugby.
The electric atmosphere cultivated by the passionate, partisan Italian crowd had done Smith’s nerves no favours as the youngster’s first touch in the international arena resulted in a knock-on while attempting to field a high kick in the first phase of play.
The situation was mirrored four minutes later, yet this time Smith was able to field the ball well and set off for his first dart in the back jersey.
Once Smith settled, he quickly fell into the mould of his typical style; running hard, tackling fiercely, breaking, offloading, hunting for work in what turned out to be a tougher test than the All Blacks would have expected.
The final whistle sounded with the score at 20-6 in New Zealand’s favour and Smith’s performance was an indication that he would go on to become a great representative of the mighty All Blacks.