Sonny Bill benched for Tri-Nations decider - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Sonny Bill benched for Tri-Nations decider

By Jim Morton 25/08/2011 03:57:25 PM Comments (0)

Rugby's most exciting dual international is in foreign waters - forced to play second-fiddle and cross his fingers for a chance to make an impact at the World Cup.

Sonny Bill Williams is no longer viewed as good enough for the All Blacks' best team and is facing the dire prospect of watching the tournament's knockout stages from the stands.

New Zealand coach Graham Henry has preferred the in-form Ma'a Nonu at inside centre for Saturday night's Tri-Nations decider and Williams' lack of versatility has cost him a place on the bench.

And, according to Henry, the former NRL star has a huge task to be an All Blacks star at the RWC.

"Sonny Bill's challenge is, I think, he's competing against the best No.12 in the world (Nonu) and that's great.

"He'll get his opportunity, (but) can he be better than the best No.12 in the world?"

That opportunity would probably come in the All Blacks' second pool game at the World Cup next month, with New Zealand likely to choose their strongest side for their tournament opener against Tonga.

It means he will have to prove his worth against minnows Japan in Hamilton for a shot at No.1 pool rival and Cup nemesis France on September 24.

"Quite frankly, it's a different experience for Sonny Bill," Henry said of the highly-paid wider squad member.

"He's always been, and rightly so, the top person in that position in the teams he's played in whether it be rugby league or rugby union.

"Now he's in a situation in the All Blacks where there's high competition for places and he's not guaranteed a run-on spot.

"So when he gets the opportunity, he needs to nail it."

But Henry said the adversity had not affected the former Kiwis league back-rower, who is yet to commit to the NZRU for 2012, and he'd responded to the disappointment well after being dropped from the side which lost 18-5 to South Africa last weekend.

"He's been outstanding in the group and we can't say any more," he said.

"Sonny Bill is a very fine rugby player and a very fine sportsman and he's desperate for an opportunity.

"You can't do that by walking down the main street in Brisbane. You have to do that on the football field."

Only three players - veteran prop Tony Woodcock, rising lock Sam Whitelock and back-rower Adam Thomson - remain in the All Blacks starting team from the Port Elizabeth.

Rolling back their big guns, Henry's chosen 10 of the players who smashed the Wallabies early at Eden Park, racking up a 17-0 lead before going on to win 30-14.

Cory Jane and Zac Guildford have been given first crack at cementing wing places before the World Cup while 97-Test fullback Mils Muliaina has been given the nod ahead of Israel Dagg, who was in scintillating form against the Springboks.

Whitelock beat veteran Ali Williams to a place in the second row beside Brad Thorn while Piri Weepu was preferred to Jimmy Cowan at halfback.

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