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SBW makes his All Black debut


Former rugby league international Sonny Bill Williams will make his Test rugby debut when he lines up in a monstrous All Blacks backline against England at Twickenham on Saturday.


The 25-year-old Williams, the mostly talked about player in New Zealand rugby this year, was named by coach Graham Henry on Thursday at outside centre and is one of four personnel changes to the side that lost 26-24 to Australia in Hong Kong last week.

“There is a resolve in the team to put in an improved performance this weekend and the team has worked hard on that this week,” Henry said in a statement.

“There is excitement in the camp as well, with the All Blacks playing England at Twickenham for the Hillary Shield always a marvellous occasion.”

Williams replaces Conrad Smith and joins Ma’a Nonu in a formidable centre pairing, while Hosea Gear and Joe Rokocoko were named on the wings. All four players weigh over 100kg each.

Gear is making his first Test start for the All Blacks since 2008 and will play on the left wing and replace the injured Cory Jane with Rokocoko swapping to the right wing.

Scrumhalf Alby Mathewson will make his first Test start and replaces Jimmy Cowan in the third change to the backline.

Lock Sam Whitelock replaces Tom Donnelly in the only change to the forwards from the Hong Kong match while prop Ben Franks, lock Anthony Boric and scrumhalf Andy Ellis come in on the replacements’ bench.

Williams, who turned down a reported multi-million dollar contract with French side Toulon to return to New Zealand with an eye on playing for the All Blacks at next year’s Rugby World Cup on home soil, will face a former New Zealand league team-mate in Shontayne Hape, who was named at inside centre for England.



15. Ben Foden, 14. Chris Ashton, 13. Mike Tindall, 12. Shontayne Hape, 11. Mark Cueto, 10. Toby Flood, 9. Ben Youngs, 8. Nick Easter, 7. Lewis Moody (captain), 6. Tom Croft, 5. Tom Palmer, 4. Courtney Lawes, 3. Dan Cole, 2. Steve Thompson, 1. Andrew Sheridan

Replacements: 16. Dylan Hartley, 17. David Wilson, 18. Dave Attwood, 19. Hendrie Fourie, 20. Danny Care, 21. Charlie Hodgson, 22. Delon Armitage

New Zealand:

15. Mils Muliaina, 14. Joe Rokocoko, 13. Sonny Bill Williams, 12. Ma’a Nonu, 11. Hosea Gear, 10. Daniel Carter, 9. Alby Mathewson; 8. Kieran Read, 7. Richie McCaw (captain), 6. Jerome Kaino, 5. Sam Whitelock, 4. Brad Thorn, 3. Owen Franks, 2. Keven Mealamu, 1. Tony Woodcock.

Replacements: 16. Hika Elliot, 17. Ben Franks, 18. Anthony Boric, 19. Liam Messam, 20. Andy Ellis, 21. Stephen Donald, 22. Isaia Toeava

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  1. Interesting how much muscle the Abs are putting on the field. SBW is a big and mobile player and he’ll eventually take Nonu’s place in the team.

  2. Reply to mawm @ 9:01 am:

    Will be interesting… Nonu’s skill-set now (apart from kicking) is gone up another few notches… tell you what the Pom midfield (and judging by their selections) would be crapping themselves… all these monsters are super-quick, can step both ways and road-trains… poor little Mils only 92kgs…

  3. What’s even more scary is that behind Nonu/Smith (avg28yrs) there is Donald/SBW (avg25yrs)…

  4. Considering the hype I was a trite disappointed when I saw SBW the first time…

    I was actually expecting the kind of impact Jonah Lomu had in RWC 1995

    That said after I’d watched him a while I changed my disappointment and actually started to admire the guy. His doing damned well for someone who got bought with the amount of hype he was and he plays outstandingly for someone who must be the most marked player in NZ rugby’s history…

    Does well in every game he plays.

    I suspect he’s going to “burst onto the scene” in the next two seasons and then go the Lomu way…

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