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'I love being in that position': All Blacks rookie on conceding early penalties

By Ned Lester
Tamaiti Williams with ball in hand for the All Blacks. Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images

Conceding three early penalties as your team falls to a 17-3 deficit against your arch-rivals isn’t quite how Tamaiti Williams would have liked his first All Blacks start to go, but the 22-year-old says he loved it all the same.

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It was a challenging start for a changed All Blacks team with the Wallabies racing out of the gates to lead 17-3 at the 22-minute mark. Williams was one of a number of young players who coach Ian Foster injected into the starting unit and the young prop partnered the more experienced Nepo Laulala and Samisoni Taukei’aho in the front row.

It was the first match props Ethan de Groot and Tyrel Lomax haven’t started and the first time the All Blacks scrum looked inferior to their opposition. Wallaby props Angus Bell and Pone Fa’amausili packed down for the scrum and won their side penalty after penalty, allowing the Wallabies to win field possession and mount pressure.

“I got penalised a few times,” Williams recalled for Stuff. “But I love that moment. I love being in that position where all the odds are against you. As a team, we learnt a lot and as a person, I learnt a lot as well.

“Test rugby… it ain’t just another game. It’s unforgiving. I’m keen to reflect on that when the time comes and take the lessons and keep moving forward. I’m sure I’ll be better for what was a really good experience.”

The All Blacks started their resurgence late in the first half and Williams tidying up his scrum work contributed to that, stopping the bleeding before halftime kept the scoring margins within reach.

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It was the final match before the World Cup squad announcement so naturally, one might wonder how a challenging performance such as Williams’ might play on the nerves with competition heightened in the national outfit.

“My mindset is I can only control what I can control,” he said. “If the coaches wanted to choose me, they would. I’m just lucky to go to work every day with the calibre of players I do. The whole front row is world-class and I’m grateful to be able to learn off these guys every day.”

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The youngster was indeed named as one of six props heading to France for the World Cup, with no changes to the Rugby Championship squad despite the impending return to fitness of veteran Joe Moody.

The All Blacks face South Africa in a warm-up game before playing the opening match of the World Cup against hosts France in Paris.

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Williams’ selection is further evidence that while there are some crinkles to iron out on the field, the prop has taken to the All Blacks environment like a duck to water.

“I believe we’re building [something special]. It’s a good place to be. We have our hard conversations, but we know that’s coming from a good place. We all just want to be better.”

 

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Andrew 340 days ago

The only way the Wallaby props got those penalties was the old Aussie trick of pulling back on the hit. Only works once or twice then the ref if he's competent gets it...and he did.

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Turlough 4 hours ago
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This ‘raging’ debate is only happenning in media circles and has never been a topic in Ireland (although SA media are interested). It makes the media companies money I guess. SA are RWC champions and #1 ranked team although Ireland are back within a point there. The facts point to SA. For a lot of 2021 France beat ALL their rivals and Ireland similar in 2022-2023. It is not wrong to say that on such form either can be deemed to be the current best team if they have beaten all their rivals and ranked #1. The ‘have to have won a world cup’ stipulation is nonsense. The world cup draw and scheduling has been tailored to the traditional big teams since the start. The scheduling also which sees the big teams sheltered from playing a hard pool match the week before has also been a constant. It is extraordinary that for example France have made so many finals. Ireland who were realistically only contenders in 2023 were in a Pool with two other top 5 teams and had to play one of them 7 days before a quarter final against France or New Zealand. Always going to be a coin toss. Scotland’s situation was worse. New Zealand had great chances in 1995, 1999, 2007 but they could not win a tight RWC match. The first tight match they ever won was versus France in the 2011 final, literally they lost every other tight match before that. Some of those NZ teams around that era were #1 surely?

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