Smith out of All Blacks side

Centre Conrad Smith has withdrawn from the New Zealand side for Saturday's Bledisloe Cup clash with Australia to be at the birth of his first child.

Smith is returning home to Wellington to be with his wife Lee-Ann, with Canterbury midfielder Ryan Crotty called up as cover.

Crotty is likely to take a place on the bench with Malakai Fekitoa taking Smith's place in the middle alongside Ma'a Nonu.

Smith's absence could be a big blow to the All Blacks hopes of starting the Rugby Championship campaign with victory especially with Wallabies centre Adam Ashley-Cooper likely to be one of Australia's biggest threats.

But 22-year-old Fekitoa has proved one of the finds of the year for the All Blacks, with his pace and strength one of the key factors in the improvement of his Otago Highlanders team.

Fekitoa played in two of New Zealand's summer Tests against England, with his first start coming alongside Nonu in Hamilton when the All Blacks completed a whitewash with a 36-13 victory. He played 65 minutes before being replaced by Crotty.

The All Blacks are seeking a record 18th successive victory by a top-tier nation when they face the Wallabies at Sydney's Olympic Stadium.

Watch the Bledisloe Cup clash between Australia and New Zealand live on Sky Sports 4 HD from 10:30am on Saturday. The game kicks off at 11:05am.