All Blacks facing Sonny Bill dilemma
November 16, 2010
Sonny Bill Williams takes on the Scotland defence © Getty Images
The All Black selectors are facing up to some tough calls for this weekend's Test against Ireland in Dublin, with the emergence of Sonny Bill Williams and the paring back of their rotation policy set to leave some big names on the sidelines.
Williams' place in the side has come at the expense of Conrad Smith and Ma'a Nonu in recent weeks and the league convert's virtuoso display against Scotland last weekend has created a midfield selection quandary where previously there wasn't one.
"We do have to be sensitive about the guys that aren't playing and manage them well in the frame of the team," coach Wayne Smith said. "At the end of the day we're for the team, everyone's got to buy into that.
"It's a good dilemma to have. One of the aims when we set the objectives for this tour was to bring some new players into the team and give them an opportunity to bed down and see how they went. I think midfield, wing and lock are areas we've really strengthened through those players getting game time and performing."
Nonu and Smith have played 26 Tests together since 2008 and were last weekend labelled as the best pairing in the world by Williams. The duo have not shied away from the competition offered by their rookie team-mate, in fact stepping in to help him on a steep learning curve.
"Ma'a and Conrad both made a bit of a pact to help Sonny Bill," Smith said. "Everyone on this team wants the best players to be playing for the All Blacks and the best players to go through to the World Cup. They understand Sonny Bill's potentially one of those.
"Far from shy away from the competition, they've added to his game. That's one of the great things about the All Blacks."
Smith also reserved special praise for Williams, whose offloading game sparked chaos at Murrayfield.
"I think he's gone well. He's different to anything we've ever seen with the way he plays," Smith said. "It's not the usual rugby union style and I think that's interesting to people and it's good for the team.
"The boys who are running in the tries off him are pretty happy about it. They're starting to understand the way he plays, they're reading his body language and trying to pick up some plums off him."
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