All Blacks show faith in un­der pres­sure Wil­liams

Gulf Times Sport - - SPORT -

New Zealand plan to re­main pa­tient with Sonny Bill Wil­liams de­spite hav­ing a mid­field quar­tet “jump­ing out of their skin” ahead of Satur­day’s clash against Eng­land at Twick­en­ham. Cross-code in­ter­na­tional Wil­liams won his 50th All Blacks cap as the world cham­pi­ons beat Aus­tralia 3720 in Yoko­hama last month.

But the 33-year-old cen­tre did not fea­ture in last week­end’s 69-31 rout of Ja­pan in Tokyo. “Sonny’s had the least rugby, he’s still find­ing his top form; I think that’s fair to say,” New Zealand as­sis­tant coach Ian Foster said yes­ter­day.

“I don’t think our pa­tience (with Wil­liams) will be driven by his back­ground, more based on how we see play­ers per­form in train­ing. I think when we look at the phys­i­cal na­ture of the game, how they are train­ing, some­times things are go­ing re­ally good off the park and it hasn’t quite gelled to the ex­tent they want on the park. Some­times play­ers are deemed to have had a quiet game, but in re­al­ity they may not have had too many op­por­tu­ni­ties to show what they are good at,” Foster added.

New Zealand will take on Ire­land in Dublin on Novem­ber 18, and con­clude their tour of the north­ern hemi­sphere with a trip to Rome to face Italy on Novem­ber 25. “We’ve got a whole lot of play­ers who have had in­juries this year, sig­nif­i­cant in­juries over time, and they’ve come back and at var­i­ous de­grees of ac­cu­racy in their game,” said Foster.

“But also some of them have taken a lit­tle longer to get their feet right. All our mid­field­ers right now are ac­tu­ally jump­ing out of their skin, to be hon­est. In the last two weeks, the en­ergy lev­els and work rate is as good as it’s been all year in that group.”

Eng­land will hope to un­leash a pow­er­house cen­tre of their own on Satur­day if Manu Tuilagi is able to make his lon­gawaited Test come­back. The Le­ices­ter mid­fielder, whose ca­reer has been blighted by in­juries, had been due to make his first Eng­land ap­pear­ance in more than two years dur­ing last Satur­day’s 12-11 win over South Africa at Twick­en­ham be­fore a mi­nor groin strain ruled him out of a place on the bench. Tuilagi’s arguably best match in an Eng­land shirt came dur­ing his try-scor­ing dis­play in a 38-21 win over New Zealand at Twick­en­ham in 2012. Le­ices­ter team­mate Ben Youngs, the Eng­land scrum-half, is ea­ger for more of the same this week­end.

“I was gut­ted when he pulled out (of the South Africa match), but it was a tiny nig­gle,” said Youngs. “But with some­one like him, it was not worth risk­ing. It’s great to see him run­ning around in train­ing. I’m re­ally please he’s able to get back out there. He’s look­ing good. We know what a world-class op­er­a­tor Manu is. It set­tles down the boys to know that he’s there.”

New Zealand’s Sonny Bill Wil­liams trains in Lon­don yes­ter­day. (Reuters)

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