Nonu centre of attention
Ma’a Nonu was sensational on Saturday as the All Blacks crushed the French. Brendon Egan writes that the dreadlocked one has stepped up when it matters.
Enough about Sonny Bill Williams, it’s time to give Ma’a Nonu the plaudits he deserves.
The New Zealand media have a love affair with the man with the chiselled pecs, but it is Nonu who has taken his game to a new level since SBW arrived from French club Toulon last year.
Nonu’s form in the black jersey in the past two years has been nothing short of phenomenal, with the dreadlocked assassin now the premier second-five on the planet and New Zealand’s second-most influential back after Dan Carter.
When the All Blacks headed on their northern hemisphere tour late last year, Nonu was under pressure for his starting position, with the drums beating loudly for Williams to be included in the midfield alongside Conrad Smith.
If anything, the threat of Williams has brought out the best in Nonu. He was in sensational touch for the All Blacks during this year’s TriNations and has carried that form through to the World Cup, where he has been the team’s stand-out performer in their opening two games, along with Jerome Kaino and Richard Kahui.
He is now an automatic selection in the No 12 jersey for the All Blacks, with SBW’s best chance of featuring in the World Cup knockout games now via the substitutes bench or possibly on the wing.
People talk about Carter, Richie McCaw and a fit Kieran Read being indispensable to the All Blacks’ chances of winning the World Cup, and I think Nonu deserves to be held in the same regard.
The rise, fall and rise of Nonu is a classic tale.
Four years ago, his All Blacks career appeared on the rocks when he missed out on the 2007 World Cup and was weighing up a switch to rugby league.
He deserves immense praise for the way he has bounced back from that disappointment and has gone away and worked on his game to become the player he is today.
Nonu was a rough diamond early in his All Blacks career, plagued by inconsistency.
He has managed to iron out those flaws and has become so dependable it’s hard to remember the last time he failed to have an impact in a big game for the All Blacks.
Through again: Ma’a Nonu leaves French defenders and Jerome Kaino and Conrad Smith in his wake as he busts the line of defence again on Saturday.