Henry hails wonderful Williams
September 16, 2011
All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams starred after coming on as a replacement in Hamilton © Getty Images
New Zealand coach Graham Henry hailed the impact made by Sonny Bill Williams after his side's emphatic 83-7 victory over Japan in Hamilton on Friday.
Williams produced a wonderful cameo appearance at the Waikato Stadium, scoring two tries and creating another for Ma'a Nonu after coming on as a second-half replacement for Cory Jane. As Henry admitted afterwards, it was perfect way for the gifted centre to respond to his demotion to the bench for the game against the Cherry Blossoms.
"He certainly made a statement, didn't he?" the All Blacks boss said. "When he went on he had a positive performance. He certainly got the selectors thinking."
The All Blacks had turned in a patchy display in their tournament opener against Tonga seven days ago, impressing in the first half before struggling to find any fluency in their play during the second period in the face of a far more aggressive and spirited performance from their opponents after the interval. Consequently, while Henry admitted that he was reluctant to take too much out of a big win over a second-string Japan side, he was buoyed by his side's showing in Hamilton.
"We got better after starting slowly," he added. "We were better than last week. We played with better structure, and I was pleased with that. The opposition wasn't as good physically, but they had good structure.
"We've been working on the breakdown. We just wanted to get better than last week, and I think there were good signs of that."
All Blacks captain Keven Mealamu, leading the side in the absence of injured skipper Richie McCaw, also felt that the Kiwis could take a number of positives out of the game. However, he admitted that there is still much work to be done ahead of next weekend's crunch clash with France.
"The big thing this week was that we wanted to improve. We have improved a lot, but we still have a few things we can get better on," the hooker said. "We have some talented boys who can play in different positions, and we're building smoothly. But next week (against France) is a big step up."
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