Save our souls, Sonny Boy Williams was launched on the international rugby stage today when he was named in the All Black touring party to Hong Kong and Europe.
Perhaps that’s what some of his future opponents might be thinking? This much anticipated selection, on both form and potential, is a thoroughly deserved choice bro’.
SBW is a class act – all athleticism, talent and menace – who looks entirely comfortable in his rugby skin and getting better with every outing.
The early disquiet amongst Kiwi rugby aficionados about his perceived ‘bigger than the game’ persona, exacerbated by his association with manager Koder Nasser and sidedick Anthony Mundine, has been thoroughly buried.
By all accounts, Sonny Bill has been a modest, unassuming and supportive bloke who hasn’t put a foot wrong since his arrival – ski trip notwithstanding.
The concern that he is only transiting New Zealand rugby and not in for the long haul may still be a worry but the thoughts are that his exposure to the All Black culture will win him over and have him wanting more.
Adding bulk to the All Black midfield might be a little like taking coals to Newcastle as not only do we have the 102kg Ma’a Nonu and the 108kg SBW, but Isaia Toeava at 100kg returns from a long injury layoff.
The much touted selection of SBW’s Canterbury centre partner Robbie Fruean has come to nought.
The 30 strong squad is made up of 16 forwards and 14 backs and is very conservative. There is only one new AB and that’s Williams.
One of the highlights is the return of former Queensland Reds flanker Daniel Braid as Richie McCaw’s backup. There was talk of a bolter – Matt Todd, a No. 7 from Canterbury – but it turned out to be another furphy.
Included on tour will be three hookers and three halfbacks: Hawkes Bay’s Hika ‘the Hooker’ Elliot is the backup to Keven Mealamu and Andrew Hore. Although John Afoa has slotted into hooker in a number of ITM matches he’s been selected solely as a prop.
Jimmy Cowan, Andy Ellis and Alby Mathewson are the halfbacks. Piri Weepu unluckily broke his ankle in Saturday’s Wellington v Taranaki match and couldn’t be considered.
There was no position for recent All Black first five eighth’s Aaron Cruden or Colin Slade with Stephen Donald being picked as support to Dan Carter.
Hosea Gear is back in black after a very impressive season which highlights the depth of New Zealand rugby. Sitiveni Sivivatu returns although he’s had no recent game time.
Unlucky players to miss out include Rene Ranger, Benson Stanley, Zac Guildford and Victor Vito.
Players not vailable due to injury are: Corey Flynn (calf), Ali Williams (Achilles), Israel Dagg (quadricep), Richard Kahui (shoulder) and Luke McAlister (jaw).
This is the All Blacks third Grand Slam tour in six years.
2010 All Blacks Spring Touring Squad
|Anthony Boric||4||26||North Harbour||16|
|Hikawera Elliot||2||24||Hawkes Bay||0|
|Tony Woodcock||1||29||North Harbour||69|
|Sonny Bill Williams||13||25||Canterbury||0|
30 Oct – All Blacks v Australia, Hong Kong
7 Nov – All Blacks v England, London
14 Nov – All Blacks v Scotland, Edinburgh
21 Nov – All Blacks v Ireland, Dublin
28 Nov – All Blacks v Wales, Cardiff