One box unticked for Sanchez

Crotty moves out one to cen­tre for test

Bay of Plenty Times - - SPORT - Lynn McCon­nell

Sonny Bill Wil­liams ad­mits to some ner­vous­ness re­turn­ing to the All Blacks’ mid­field for to­mor­row’s (11.40am NZT) Rugby Cham­pi­onship test with Ar­gentina in Buenos Aires.

Out of test ac­tion since the June se­ries against France, Wil­liams has been in­cluded in to­mor­row’s side and is part­nered with Ryan Crotty, who will move out to cen­tre.

Wil­liams said it felt like it had been a while since he played but he was grate­ful to be back in the squad.

While miss­ing out on selec­tion was dis­ap­point­ing, the bond the mid­field play­ers’ group had as a unit soon took over and they con­cen­trated on do­ing their best for the play­ers cho­sen.

There was some ner­vous­ness as­so­ci­ated with be­ing back in the spot­light on the field but he tried to thrive on that and un­der­stand the task ahead of them.

Ar­gentina had come off a big win, they had had a great tour and now were back home and ready to go, he said.

“When you’re in an en­vi­ron­ment that is so suc­cess­ful, it drives suc­cess and the pres­sure to per­form and not just win. The times that I have been in­volved with a loss, we delve deeper into the so­lu­tions and we have those tough con­ver­sa­tions that needed to be had. We’ve done that this week,” he said.

Wing Rieko Ioane, who didn’t play the first game against Ar­gentina, said he had been im­pressed with the foot­work of his The side to face the Pumas at 11.40am (NZ day­light sav­ing time) to­mor­row in Buenos Aires is: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Waisake Na­holo, 13 Ryan Crotty 12 Sonny Bill Wil­liams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beau­den Bar­rett, 9 TJ Per­e­nara, 8 Luke White­lock, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Shan­non Frizell, 5 Scott Bar­rett, 4 Sam White­lock (c), 3 Ofa Tu­un­gafasi, 2 Codie Tay­lor, 1 Karl Tu'inukuafe. Sub­sti­tutes: 16 Nathan Har­ris, 17 Tim Perry, 18 An­gus Ta'avao, 19 Pa­trick Tuip­u­lotu, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Aaron Smith, 22 Richie Mo'unga, 23 An­ton Lienert-Brown.

Lynn McCon­nell

op­po­site Bautista Del­guy and it was ex­cit­ing to come up against play­ers so good in their po­si­tion and among the best in the world.

They at least had the abil­ity within their own squad to pre­pare for play­ers with sim­i­lar skills — Nehe Mil­ner-Skud­der was an ef­fi­cient step­per while Wil­liams was also — that was in­valu­able ahead of the game, he said.

Wil­liams had been tak­ing in some of the so­cial side of Ar­gentina, be­ing hosted by Pumas player Javier Ortega De­sio at his home as the re­sult of a long­stand­ing friend­ship they have, and also be­ing part of a group of All Blacks who vis­ited San Mar­tin prison, where rugby is used as part of the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of pris­on­ers.

“They’ve done it so smart, a lot of their pur­pose or their vi­sion there is to play rugby. They try to feed that,” Wil­liams said. “They’ve got a mas­sive rugby field. When you go in their cells, there’s paint­ings of rugby play­ers ev­ery­where.

“Ob­vi­ously the lingo they use in there is all about rugby, rugby, rugby but then when you chuck in, ‘If you don’t get your ed­u­ca­tional stan­dards up to scratch, you’re not go­ing to be able to play rugby’ then you get the change.

“So they’ve started off small, then they’ve seen the ben­e­fits of it, then they’ve gone to the gov­ern­ments and said, ‘Look, can we get some fund­ing?’ which they have so that’s awe­some.

“I hear that it’s in over 100 pris­ons world­wide and they’re look­ing at get­ting it into New Zealand as well, so it’s a great ini­tia­tive,” he said. Ar­gentina’s lead­ing points scorer in test rugby, Nico­las Sanchez, is hop­ing his 12th at­tempt to be in a win­ning team over the All Blacks will bear fruit in to­mor­row’s test at Velez Sars­feld Sta­dium in Buenos Aires.

First five-eighth Sanchez, who broke Felipe Con­tepomi’s points scor­ing record in the first clash be­tween the two coun­tries this year in Nel­son, has ex­tended his tally to 667 points and, with an ex­pected move to Stade Fran­cais later in the year, to­mor­row could be his last chance to achieve the goal.

The re­quire­ment to beat the All Blacks was ba­sic, he told La Na­cion.

“We have to think about go­ing ball to ball, play­ing each ball as if it were the last, and not think­ing beyond, try­ing to be calm.

“We have to play them a lot like we did in New Zealand, play with our feet and make them un­com­fort­able and we have to im­prove our de­fence 100 per cent if we re­ally want to push them hard,” he said.

While the de­fence had been vul­ner­a­ble in Nel­son it had im­proved when they achieved their win over Aus­tralia a week later on the Gold Coast.

The for­wards had played well and they made good ex­its from de­fen­sive po­si­tions and would need to con­tinue to im­prove in those ar­eas, he said.

Sanchez said Ar­gentina had achieved their suc­cess this year be­cause of the work and ef­fort they had been putting in since the start of the year. But, with their two wins to date, they had to keep re­dou­bling their ef­forts.

“The coaches made it clear that there is a lot to im­prove and we still have a lot to do to be the team we re­ally want to be,” he said.

The ar­rival of coach Mario Ledesma had been cen­tral to both Sanchez’ im­prove­ment and that of the side.

“Since the be­gin­ning of the year [with the Jaguares], hav­ing such a clear game sys­tem helped us a lot, be­cause ev­ery­one knows what they have to do. The mood of the team also helps a lot, the mood of all the play­ers, of the staff, that is very good and it spreads quickly,” he said.

What Ledesma had done was bring some good, and dif­fer­ent, ideas.

“But above all he put some key pil­lars in the team, such as work, sac­ri­fice. What the coaches pointed out to us is that they want a team that does not have ex­cuses and that only works. That was the mes­sage from the first day and it serves us a lot,” he said. Two through to semis CA­NOE­ING: Yes­ter­day was a good day for two of New Zealand’s kayak­ers at the ca­noe slalom world cham­pi­onships in Brazil. Olympic sil­ver medal­list Luuka Jones bounced back from a poor qual­i­fy­ing heat in the C1 event to push through to the semi­fi­nals with a sec­ond place fin­ish in the repechage. Mean­while Mike Daw­son made it straight through to the semi­fi­nals of the men’s K1 after fin­ish­ing 15th in the heats.

Nico­las Sanchez is Ar­gentina’s lead­ing points scorer in test rugby, but he’s never beaten the All Blacks.

PHOTO / PHOTOSPORT

Sonny Bill Wil­liams hasn’t played for the All Blacks since he was hurt in the June test win­dow.

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