All Blacks: the best is yet to come

2011-10-12 10:12

New Zealand are yet to play their best rugby at the World Cup, All

Blacks back Sonny Bill Williams warned ahead of Sunday’s semi-final against

trans-Tasman rivals Australia.

The All Blacks cruised through the pool stage and overcame

Argentina 33-10 in the quarter-final to set up a clash with the Wallabies, who

found themselves in this side of the draw after surprisingly losing to Ireland

in their pool.

“We haven’t played our best footy yet,” said Williams, who spent

five years in Australia playing rugby league for the Canterbury Bulldogs,

including winning the NRL grand final in 2004 at the age of 18.

Williams, who also won seven New Zealand league caps before

switching codes, has found himself playing in the unaccustomed position of wing

as the All Blacks battle several injuries within their squad, but the

26-year-old insisted he was enjoying the experience.

“I’ve surprised myself how well I’ve played on the wing,” the

league second-rower, whose smart offloads and running lines have been among the

highlights of this tournament, said yesterday.

“Some people didn’t think I could play rugby (union), I showed them

that I can. I’m always a confident player and if I’m put out there (on the wing)

I’ll do the job as best I can, just do the little things and it all comes

good.

“I’m doing all the little things right, I’m ticking all the boxes

during the week and staying in the now, not looking back at the past or what’s

happened.”

The World Cup, Williams argued, was the reason he moved from the

Bulldogs to French Top 14 club Toulon in 2008 and then back to New Zealand last

year.

“There is nothing better than this stage,” he said. “It’s pretty

much the whole reason why I came back here, to test myself against the best

players, to try and make this team, this squad.”

Now that fullback Mils Muliaina has been ruled out with injury,

Israel Dagg will be favourite to take over the number 15 shirt against

Australia, leaving coach Graham Henry with a real selection headache when it

comes to Williams.

Henry rightly likes the proven midfield combination of Ma’a Nonu

and Conrad Smith, likely leaving Williams to battle Richard Kahui and Cory Jane

for a spot on the wing.

Alternatively, the All Blacks might think that pitching Williams in

at wing against proven Wallaby finishers Digby Ioane and James O’Connor might be

too much to ask, leaving the cross-code star kicking his heels on the

bench.

“Competition is fierce within the team,” Williams acknowledged.

“But it’s a good competition and it brings the best out of us.

“Hopefully, I’ll get picked and I’m involved. If I am, that’s

great.”

 

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