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Dublin: 7°C Monday 12 April 2021

Fasting for Ramadan, Sonny Bill Williams hungry to bring down the Lions

The Blues centre has recovered from a knee issue to start at inside centre tomorrow.

Murray Kinsella reports from Auckland

SONNY BILL WILLIAMS stood out as the alpha male in the Blues pack this week as the Auckland-based Super Rugby franchise prepared for their clash with the Lions on Wednesday night at Eden Park [KO 8.35am Irish time, Sky Sports].

Sonny Bill Williams is seen wearing the unique jersey with the Plunket logo on the collar Williams will be at 12 against the Lions. Source: Photosport/Anthony Au-Yeung/INPHO

Even at the team announcement, a lively affair that involved the entire match day 23 being introduced to and paraded in front of the media, Williams’ influence was very clear.

He led the applause as each name was read out, congratulating his team-mates and lightening the mood.

When Blues head coach Tana Umaga was questioned about the infamous 2005 incident involving Brian O’Driscoll, it was Williams who stepped in to shut it down. How many players speak for their head coach in that manner?

Williams’ profile and prowess make him close to untouchable. This is a man who was granted exceptional permission to wear a Blues jersey with no bank advertisements on it after he covered a sponsor’s logo due to his religious beliefs.

New Zealand Rugby was involved in that one, as they accepted Williams’ “conscientious objection” and allowed him to wear a special jersey.

SBW is one of the biggest stars in the global game and he is clearly an incredibly influential figure within the Blues squad that will look to bring the Lions some misery tomorrow.

Unfortunately for Umaga’s side, Williams hasn’t featured extensively this season as he has made his comeback from knee issues, meaning he has played just six times in Super Rugby.

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2015 - Final - New Zealand v Australia - Twickenham Williams will be bidding to push back into the All Blacks' set-up. Source: PA Archive/PA Images

He has yet to hit his very best form, but having been passed fit to face the Lions – he was bracketed with TJ Faiane at 12 on Monday – Williams will also be eager to show the Steve Hansen and the All Blacks that he can do damage to the Lions.

“It’s been stop-start, stop-start, but coming off a big injury like I have, I’m pretty happy with how I’m going,” said Williams. “I’m looking to try and play some consistent footie and get out there as much as I can.

“It’s been a bit stop-start but I’m really excited and keen to get out there this week.”

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While Williams seemed to be in laidback and humorous form at Alexandra Park as he spoke earlier this week, he could have been forgiven for being a little bit cranky.

The 6’4″ midfielder is Muslim and is currently fasting during Ramadan, but he says it hasn’t negatively affected his preparation for facing the Lions.

“Not too much, to be honest,” said Williams. “We’ve got a pretty good coaching staff and trainers so I’ve worked pretty closely with them. I find the fasting easiest with footy-based training and I push back the weights until I break the fast.

“Thank God in New Zealand, we’re in this part of the world as we only fast for nine or ten hours a day, in Europe it can be 16 or 18 hours.

Sonny Bill Williams Williams is fasting at the moment. Source: Andrew Cornaga/INPHO

“After the first week, that’s the toughest, and after that the body starts getting used to it and I start getting used to it as much as I can.”

Regardless of the nature of Williams’ eating patterns at the moment, the Lions are going to have their hands full keeping him quiet tomorrow at Eden Park, with Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne teaming up in the Lions’ midfield.

Williams will have goals based around being in the All Blacks’ XV to take on the Lions in the Test series, but being part of a special occasion at Eden Park is motivation enough for him.

“Yeah, up there mate,” said Williams when asked where this game will rate in his career. “Very excited about running out against the Lions.

“The squad who’s been named for this week, we just have to show that we’re up to it and back those boys up and carry on the good form. And repay the faith the coaches have put in us.”

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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