Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Williams loving the spotlight

Sonny Bill Williams

New Zealand centre Sonny Bill Williams will be one of the main box-office attractions when the tourists face Wales on Saturday, but admits he felt like an "extra" when he first joined up with the All Blacks.

The 25-year-old former New Zealand rugby league cap made the switch to rugby union with ambitious French outfit Toulon in 2008, before taking a sizeable pay cut to move to Canterbury and fulfil his dream of becoming an All Black.

"It's been great to be on this tour. I think at the start of the first week I felt like an extra walking around with the boys, I was still in awe of them because the All Blacks are such a big brand. But after getting to know them you realise they are normal guys and I am getting more comfortable as part of the squad," said Williams.

He earned his first international call-up for of the current Grand Slam tour and has proven to be one of the stars of the trip with his offloading ability allowing the tourists to unlock defences almost at will.

He set up the opening try on his debut in the Kiwis' win over England at Twickenham before playing a part in four more in their hammering of Scotland at Murrayfield.

He made do with a place on the bench in Ireland last time out but has replaced Ma'a Nonu in the starting XV for tomorrow's potential Grand Slam clincher at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

And, despite the apparent ease with which he has made the step up to Test level, the former NRL star admits he was in awe of some of his team-mates when he joined up with the squad for the first time.

"I feel more confident now because I know the roles in the gameplan," he said. "When I know what's going on it gives me more confidence to express myself. I know the boys now and there are no excuses.

Coach Graham Henry says the decision to choose the raw ability of Williams over the experience of Nonu is down to the eye-catching form the newcomer has shown, but the player himself humbly insists that his rival is the number one player in his position.

Williams said: "I know I am not the finished article or the number one number 12 in the country. Ma'a Nonu is, but they are given me time to find my feet. It's not a case of me being selected in front of Ma'a, it's just about me being given the chance to continue learning and improving."

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