SONNY Bill Williams has been picked for his 50th Test as an All Black and a centre tango with Israel Folau for the Bledisloe Cup Test in Yokohama on Saturday.
It is a superb milestone moment for dual international Williams who began his journey as an All Black in 2010 and has ridden the highs of World Cup triumph and injury lows since.
Williams always demands double-teaming tackles to muzzle him at inside centre to prevent his high off-loads. When Folau makes decisive calls to go into help with such tackles or keep his width at outside centre will be key moments of his initiation as a Test outside centre for the first time.
The Bledisloe Cup may have been wrapped up with the smashing 38-13 and 40-12 wins over the Wallabies in August but the All Blacks are hungry for a clean sweep with the powerful line-up they have chosen.
Sonny Bill Williams and Israel Folau clash in a Bledisloe Cup encounter. Pic Brett CostelloSource:News Corp Australia
The All Blacks have scored 52 tries so far this year, the most by any top tier country.
Prop Joe Moody returns from his thumb injury, mullet-man Liam Squire is back in the No.6 jersey and the world’s top lock, Brodie Retallick, will be a super-sub from the bench.
Retallick has not played since early September when he damaged his shoulder against Argentina in Nelson but he is such a skilled athlete that no one will be expecting any rust on his game.
And Sonny Bill Williams gets the better of Izzy. Pic Brett CostelloSource:News Corp Australia
In other changes, yappy TJ Perenara will start at halfback ahead of Aaron Smith.
Ben Smith shuffles to the wing which creates a chance for quicksilver Damian McKenzie at fullback.
Dynamic Ardie Savea is at openside flanker with Matt Todd providing cover from the bench now that Sam Cane is out long-term with his neck fracture.
“We’ll be up against a good Australian team and they’ll be desperate to win, but so are we,” All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said.
Sonny Bill Williams has been picked for this 50th All Blacks Test. (Photo by Catherine KOTZE / AFP)Source:AFP
“We know that they’ll come with a lot of passion and physicality, but our focus this week has been about us and what we want to bring — intensity, skill and a triple threat game.
“Being well prepared, clear in our roles and excited about the opportunity in playing this one-off Test against Australia in Japan, will be a good start in achieving a quality performance.
“We’re also excited to be playing the first of our two Tests here in Japan.
Israel Folau has a massive job ahead of him when he clashes with Sonny Bill Williams in the Japan Bledisloe Cup Test. Photo: Stuart Walmsley/Rugby AU MediaSource:News Corp Australia
“The Japanese people have been fantastic hosts and the team has enjoyed the cultural aspects of our time here.”
ALL BLACKS: Damian McKenzie, Ben Smith, Ryan Crotty, Sonny Bill Williams, Rieko Ioane, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Kieran Read (c), Ardie Savea, Liam Squire, Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody
Reserves: Nathan Harris, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Nepo Laulala, Brodie Retallick, Matt Todd, Aaron Smith, Richie Mo’unga, Anton Lienert-Brown
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Originally published as Danger lurks for Folau in SBW milestone
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