One box unticked for Sanchez
Crotty moves out one to centre for test
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.
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.
Sonny Bill Williams hasn’t played for the All Blacks since he was hurt in the June test window.