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Monday, August 09, 2010

Sonny Bill Williams plays his first game in New Zealand

Sonny Bill Williams plays his first game in New Zealand

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."


Time: 01:57
Credit: Thanks to tvnz.co.nz for the video report

Posted at 10:35 am | 31 comments

Viewing 31 comments

Anonymous August 09, 2010 9:59 am

first

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Anonymous August 09, 2010 10:09 am

i havent seen him doing anything special really, he is fast big and strong but not the wonderkid the media makes of him

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Anonymous August 09, 2010 10:10 am

He's huge! Would love a chance to smash him though

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r dean August 09, 2010 10:43 am

what did the kid in hat say any one got any idea i thought they spoke english in nz

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Ryan August 09, 2010 11:05 am

the next dan carter for sure!... actually, i might just hate him even more than dan! ha... douche

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stuart August 09, 2010 11:11 am

where to put him in the AB`s is gonna be the hardest! switch nonu or smith?? and having nonu and williams together in the mid field, that would be the biggest, strongest, faster back line in the world! its gonna be great to see!

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Anonymous August 09, 2010 11:33 am

i may be speaking too early but it seems to me that the hype is much bigger than the reality (from his days at toulon to now...)

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NiWiTa August 09, 2010 11:43 am

I wish him luck - from the limited league stuff I have seen of him he is a good talent and I hope he can build his strategic instincts....

Interesting point by Stuart - what role should he develop into?

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Anonymous August 09, 2010 11:51 am

"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." -- Not a chance.

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jay August 09, 2010 1:48 pm

Best player in France ? Surely not... If we're gonna take number 12 : Yann David / Mermoz or Bastareaud should be enough to point out players with a good year at inside center.
Promising player ? yes...
Brillant ? not as of yet...

So yeah a big fuss made over someone surely promising but not there yet... unlike Conrad Smith for instance.

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Simon August 09, 2010 1:48 pm

Well, if Franck Bunce's French friend said SBW was the best player of the French Championship, this guy probably didn't see Yannick Jauzion, Damien Traille or Florian Fritz in action...
Indeed, he is able to do unexpectable offloads and great runs...so what ? He has no kicking ability for example, which is vital when the opposite side dominates...
Above all, he looks still far from the level any All Blacks backs reached in recent days...

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NiWiTa August 09, 2010 2:10 pm

Fair point Stuart - who does Florian Fritz play for?

Is he better than Yannik Jauzion in your opinion?

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NiWiTa August 09, 2010 2:11 pm

Oops sorry Simon I meant

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Simon August 09, 2010 2:18 pm

Fritz plays for Toulouse, usually as a second center with Jauzion in first. He comes first before Yann David, another promising player.
Jauzion and Williams are definitely different, they come from different backgrounds. Still, to me Jauzion is better in his ability to create space around him , and make people play. Williams is more commonly able to do short, quick and unexpectable offloads but to play as a second number 10 I reckon...

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jay August 09, 2010 2:56 pm

Well Fritz had a great end of the year but has been on and off for the past 2 years.
Jauzion has been the man for a few years now. Simon sums it all up ....

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Simon August 09, 2010 3:09 pm

True Jay,

I also have to say that considering Williams' qualities, he would be more likely play as second center, contrary to Jauzion who is a pure first center, and even maybe first five eight, even if he hasn't played much at this position in Toulouse, where you often have one or two internationals per position...

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Anonymous August 09, 2010 4:34 pm

What's with everyone's obsession in posting first?

Never seen a full rugby game with him starring, but I hope his presence gives Smith and Nonu a scare to up their game. Nothing wrong with a bit of competition.

17

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Anonymous August 09, 2010 5:42 pm

9. Byron Kelleher
10. Dan Carter
11. Hosea Gear
12. LukeMcalister
13. Sonny Bill Williams
14. Sitiveni Sivivatu
15. Israel Dagg

The Backline to win de world cup.

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WelshOsprey August 09, 2010 6:36 pm

Ive seen plenty of him for toulon and hes nowhere near as good as people make him out to be.
Give me nonu and smith any day of the week.

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Les Bleus August 09, 2010 6:54 pm

9. Byron Kelleher
10. Dan Carter
11. Hosea Gear
12. LukeMcalister
13. Sonny Bill Williams
14. Sitiveni Sivivatu
15. Israel Dagg

Uh, what? Kelleher, doesn't play in New Zealand, Piri Weepu is also a lot better. Hosea Gear has a terrible work rate, Luke Mcalister is nothing on Nonu. Sonny Bill Williams in this clip but his back to the defensive line... need I say more? Sitiveni isn't a right wing and Mils has been scoring tries, catching the ball, breaking tackles and has been the top 3 players of this years Tri-Nations and you want to replace him with Dagg, who has little to no experience and played well against one team with 14 men?

This is why you aren't the All Blacks coach.

I saw nothing special here today, maybe he will improve at Canterbury but for someone with a 100kg frame and all this reputation, he didn't seem to do much this game.

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Anonymous August 09, 2010 7:55 pm

i dont think you'd be able to tell much out of a 2 minute clip on his union potential, i think SBW should be at inside center, to allow his big frame to carry up the crash balls and with his offload ability (flick pass rivaling benji marshall) opens up space out wide by creating a huge hole in the center channel, hes not as retarded as nonu is either - who, when he is isolated and doesn't have an obvious 2 on 1 out wide, will most likely tuck his head in and charge forward. I'd bet on SBW getting the line break in that situation than nonu. and for kicking ability? really? the last thing you would want from a guy his size is to think about kicking the ball away. maybe he won't be starting for the kiwis but he should definitely get a bench spot. As much as he might be seen as a douche for ditching league, from a union point of view you gotta give him credit for how much he worked just to make the all blacks =\

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Canadian Content August 09, 2010 8:12 pm

What strikes me about the guy is how humble and down to earth he comes across as. He may just be going through the motions, but that's more than a lot of stars do.

Tough to break up Nonu and Smith as they are in great form right now, though he's a definite competitor for either jersey.

Best player in France? Unlikely, what about Haridnouy (sorry bad spelling), Dussatoir (once again probably wrong)... Probably wasn't even the MVP of Toulon. Most promising though perhaps, possibly in the world of union.

Should be interesting to watch.

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olwakachangchang August 09, 2010 8:59 pm

haha he was playing club rugby and is coming back from knee surgery so it's fair to say that he's not going straight from the Belfast to the All Blacks.

Wait until he is in canterbury and maybe the ABs at the end of the year to see how he is when surrounded by some elite players.

I'm not sure he will knock off the partnership of nonu and smith (I see him as a bench player at the moment who could cover 12 and 13) but the likelihood of a couple of backs getting injured next year is high so the more depth the better!

How fast is he? Could he have a go on the wing?

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Anonymous August 10, 2010 12:50 am

once he gets that experience playing outside carter and in the same team as mccaw and reid hes just gonna get better and better. him and robbie fruan are gonna be a deadly combo at 12 and 13 and with carters passing ability other s15 defences will need to be on their toes.

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secondfive August 10, 2010 12:52 am

@r dean said... what did the kid in hat say any one got any idea i thought they spoke english in nz

I'll see if I can help you out r dean.
"He'll be there though, Canterbury, you know .. those offloads mate, you get some decent players running off them and he's away... "
It's not Shakespeare but he's got a point.

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Anonymous August 10, 2010 5:19 am

Looked like he was going easy on them..

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Xavier August 10, 2010 5:57 pm

@ les bleus:

Hmm, I probably wouldn't say that about Gear. Have you seen him latelly? He has to be the most frustrated player in nzed at the momment, and he has good reasons to feel like that too. He is a class, huge, fast, "oh my god here he comes again! and again! and again!" player, and I certainly don't think he has a terrible workrate. I actually think he has a good workrate, it's just that he isn't the most consistent player regarding his form.

Otherwise, I generally agree with you

Cheers, RD

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Anonymous August 10, 2010 8:29 pm

Best player in France ?!?!?
Jauzion or Traille were far better than Sonny Bill Williams.

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Jono August 10, 2010 11:44 pm

I would much rather have SBW in my team then Jauzion or Traille.
He's bigger and stronger, better at running, better at offloading in contact.
Jauzion or Traille would be better kickers (something SBW will never be good at), better at reading the game (something SBW can learn).
Overall though, with the right coaching he'll be twice the player as those Frenchies.
He's just got more natural ability, it will just take a coach who knows what he's doing.
His game suits the kiwis, and the SH also.
Kicking isn't that important, if you can destroy a team with your running game, like Nonu.

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Jamie August 11, 2010 4:16 am

All you idiots who think that was Sonny at full flight are kidding yourselves. He is coming back from surgery and has no match fitness... Check back in a couple of weeks and see how he's doing :-)

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Anonymous August 11, 2010 11:39 am

hey i am lucas from france! i thing sonny is a very good player and i have seen almost all his plays in the top 14. i thing he can be an all black but i am not really sure he's the top 14 best player this year!

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