Questions are being asked about Sonny Bill Williams’ fitness for the Rugby World Cup, with speculation swirling that Ngani Laumape is about to replace him in Japan.
Williams is suffering from a calf injury – that saw him miss the All Blacks’ test against Tonga – and one commentator is saying he will soon be on the way home.
An All Black spokesman was non-committal when approached for comment this morning.
If true, the dramatic late switch would come with the All Blacks’ opening clash with South Africa in Yokohama just six days away.
Despite having played only about 40 matches since the last World Cup, the injury-prone Williams has remained central to coach Steve Hansen’s plans.
Former World Cup match commentator Hamish McKay has publicly sparked the rumour mill, saying Williams’ withdrawal is imminent.
“I trust my source absolutely. Watch this space,” McKay told Newstalk ZB’s Martin Devlin.
“It’s more than an injury watch day … it’s a day-to-day proposition. I think we’re going to hear something break.”
McKay, the former TV3 sports anchor and rugby editor, reckoned: “How long before Ngani Lauampe is on the plane?”
Players who are replaced can take no further part in the tournament. Both Williams and Laumape are second five-eighths not known for playing other positions at test level.
Laumape has kept up his solid form while playing for Manawatu in the Mitre 10 Cup. Yesterday he bagged two second-half tries to see the Turbos overcome a 26-7 halftime deficit and deny Southland what would have been their first win in three years.
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