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Steve Hansen backs Sonny Bill Williams to inspire New Zealand

Steve Hansen has backed "pretty freaky beast" Sonny Bill Williams to light up New Zealand's bid to make history and retain the World Cup.

The Rugby League convert dragged the All Blacks to victory with a pulsating cameo in Sunday's edgy 26-16 triumph over Argentina at Wembley.

The 30-year-old former New Zealand boxing champion and current Chiefs centre could now face Namibia at the Olympic Stadium on Thursday night.

"He had a bit of anxiety about his knee in Sydney (during the Rugby Championship) but he's done some good work with people to be in a good place about his knee now," said Hansen of Williams' return to top condition.

"And when he's like that he's a pretty freaky beast.

"It could be an exciting tournament for him."

Victory over Argentina already leaves New Zealand overwhelming favourites to top Pool C, with Namibia, Georgia and Tonga hardly expected to trouble the defending champions.

Head coach Hansen shrugged off suggestions New Zealand could arrive at the quarter-finals short of top-level battle-hardness.

"I'm not sure about that: watching Georgia the other day they're massive men and they'll take some encouragement about what happened in Brighton with Japan as well.

"They're well-coached by Milton Haig and we'll get plenty of physicality."

Hansen suggested New Zealand could even stand to benefit from their group line-up, if England, Wales, Australia and Fiji knocks the expected lumps out of each other in Pool A.

"The guys in the pool of death, if they're going to go the whole way they're going to have to play some big games week after week after week and there are disadvantages in that as well.

"So it's swings and roundabouts.

"We're fresher but we have to make sure we're not underprepared."


From Belfast Telegraph