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All Blacks 'starting to see the old Sonny Bill Williams' again, insists Hansen

The two-time World Cup winner has been plagued by injury in recent years.

Sonny Bill Williams earned the praise of his head coach after their win over Canada.
Sonny Bill Williams earned the praise of his head coach after their win over Canada.
Image: PA Wire/PA Images

THE ALL BLACKS WARNED their Rugby World Cup plans were starting to come together on Wednesday after a nine-try, 63-0 drubbing of Canada in steamy Oita.

In gruelling, sauna-like conditions, the performances of Sonny Bill Williams, Richie Mo’unga and the forwards particularly impressed, as did scrum-half Brad Weber who set the game alight at the start of the second half.

Two-time World Cup winner Williams has been plagued by injury in recent years but All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen sees him returning to his best.

“He’s got a kicking game.I think he’s done that kick about four times and we’ve scored four times from it. Four times since 2011 isn’t a lot of kicking, is it, but it’s effective,” Hansen said.

He’s been working hard, and he’s injury-free and we’re starting to see the old Sonny.”

Hansen said the game was an important marker of New Zealand’s progress as they chase an unprecedented third straight world title.

“We have come away with some confidence that what we’re trying to do is starting to grow and build,” he said.

“We will look at the key critical things we want to work on and how they’re going and then move on from that. Some of the stuff we won’t take any notice of, but there was stuff there that we have been working on for a little while this year and we want to see how we can keep developing.”

rugby-world-cup-2019-preview-package Williams has struggled with injury in recent years. Source: David Davies

The clammy atmosphere in Oita Stadium made handling difficult and consequently the All Blacks’ execution was not always accurate, but they showed a wide range of attacking threats.

“When Brad came on he was part of probably the best part of the game,” coach Steve Hansen said.

Weber, who scored two tries, replaced TJ Perenara with the All Blacks leading 28-0 and within 10 minutes they had doubled the score.

“After half-time we played well-controlled footy and played with speed but also didn’t look for silly offloads. We played with control and with speed which is what we were after,” said Hansen.

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Captain Kieran Read added: “Straight after half-time we actually controlled the pill.”

With South Africa disposed of in their opening game, and only Namibia and Italy left to play in Pool B, the All Blacks are on course to play a quarter-final against the runners-up in Pool A where Ireland, Scotland and Japan are all possible contenders.

The three Barrett brothers, Beauden, Scott and Jordie, all featured on the scoresheet with Beauden’s try coming from a deft kick that Williams has included in his armoury.

The All Blacks have a short four-day turnaround before they next play Namibia which is why Hansen used three tighthead props to keep them fresh, and he also kept loosehead Atu Moli on the field for the full 80 minutes.

Although the humidity led to multiple handling errors, with both Beauden and Scott Barrett having the ball slip from their hands as they were about to score, Read said it was beneficial to play in such an atmosphere.

“Conditions were pretty tough out there. You saw guys just coming on and they were just drenched in sweat. There were lessons out there if we get similar conditions further down the track.”

© – AFP, 2019 

Eoin Toolan joins Murray Kinsella in Japan to review Ireland’s shock defeat to the hosts at the Rugby World Cup.

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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