Monday, August 09, 2010
While New Zealand have all but wrapped up the Tri Nations tournament and look their most impressive for a couple of seasons, they still have the incredible talent of Sonny Bill Williams waiting in the wings with World Cup aspirations. He played his first game in the country this weekend.
Williams - who famously defected from the NRL for a rugby union life in France with Toulon - is now back in his country of birth as he aims to build up to earning an All Black cap by plying his trade with Canterbury, firstly in the ITM Cup, then with the Crusaders in the Super 15 next year.
The 25 year-old former league star underwent minor knee surgery six weeks ago so this was his first test out on the park, a low level match for Belfast against Lincoln University, which 3000 plus turned out to see.
He played 50 minutes before going off with a hamstring twinge. Apparently crowd numbers halved when he was replaced. He offloaded with the same flair and skill as weve seen before though, and managed to get over for a try shortly before going off.
"The body was good. The hamstring got a little bit tight but it was good to knock 40-50 minutes out and get a win with the boys," he said of the 22-7 win.
"This is what grass roots footy is about and thankfully the boys took to me really well and I've enjoyed my time with them. My defence was a bit off, trying to shoot out there a couple of times. Hopefully I can be like a snowball effect, start off there and then gradually progress.
He is hoping to be selected for the Canterbury side for next weekend.
"I've got to force my way in there somehow. That's the reason I came down here, because I know it's a big challenge. If I can make that team, it goes a long way to pursuing my dreams."
Former All Black Richard Loe was impressed with what Williams has to offer.
"While the standard of rugby wasn't up to much and Sonny Bill didn't get the ball all that much at second five-eighths, you can see why the All Black selectors are interested. He came into the breakdown, grabbed the ball, swatted off two or three forwards as if they were sandflies and made a run downfield. He is big, he is strong, he is fast. You can see the athletic ability and you can see the strength," added Loe.
Another former All Black, 55 times capped center Frank Bunce, said that he feels Williams is almost guaranteed to be playing Test rugby in the not too distant future.
"I actually think he's an All Black already. I spoke to a friend of mine in France who follows rugby closely and he said that Sonny Bill was the best player in French rugby by far."
Credit: Thanks to tvnz.co.nz for the video report