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SBW fires back: 'This is what I call pressure'

NZ Herald

Sonny Bill Williams claims he is not under pressure.

The All Black took to Twitter tonight attacking those who have taken aim at him – claiming he is under pressure to retain his spot in the national squad.

The once-barnstorming midfielder managed just under 60 minutes against the Springboks on the weekend in Wellington following a lack of prior game time.

The 33-year-old Williams has struggled with injuries over the past few years, including this season where he’s battled knee and hamstring issues – and has played just 38 games since the last World Cup.

It’s left Williams’ place in the All Blacks squad in question, with All Blacks selectors giving him an opportunity to prove his fitness over the coming weeks.

“We’ve got a lot of respect for Sonny’s playing ability, obviously,” All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said at today’s Bledisloe Cup team announcement. “He’s played 52 tests for the All Blacks, so we know he can play at this level. The unfortunate thing is he hasn’t played much.

“We wanted to see him on Saturday being able to cope with the rigors of test football, which he did, so that’s a big tick. But to judge him at the highest level when he’s had no football is not fair.

“What we’ve asked him to do is play a couple of games for Counties which will give him three games in three weeks and then look to see what we’re going to do in Auckland. If he was to play there that would be four games in four weeks.

“Then everybody gets judged fairly and whatever combination of the four we come up with, everybody has had an opportunity to say ‘well, I’ve had a fair go’ and every one of them deserves that including Sonny.”

On Saturday, he will join fellow All Black Nepo Laulala to play for Counties Manukau in a pre-Mitre 10 Cup season game.

Laulala will then join the All Blacks squad in Perth, while Williams will stay and play in Counties Manukau’s Mitre 10 Cup season opener the following Saturday.

Williams will later join the national squad in Auckland for the second Bledisloe Cup test week.

Meanwhile, midfield rival Ngani Laumape is likely to get a big opportunity to impress in the first test against the Wallabies in Perth a week on Saturday.

The make-up of the midfield remains a difficult World Cup decision for the selectors and it appears almost certain that it will be a contest between Williams and Laumape for the fourth spot to Japan.

This article first appeared on nzherald.co.nz and is republished with permission.

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SBW fires back: 'This is what I call pressure'