Sonny Bill Williams is man for big moment

DAVID LONG IN MANCHESTER
Last updated 05:01 30/11/2013
RLWC2013.com

New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams is humbled by his teammates after being crowned the Rugby League International Federation player of the year.

Sonny Bill Williams
Getty Images
SBW FINE: The Kiwis' most lethal weapon at the Rugby League World Cup is fine after appearing to hurt his neck against Scotland.

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Never has this country needed Sonny Bill Williams more than at 3.30am tomorrow morning.

At the 2011 Rugby World Cup Williams was little more than a bit part player for the All Blacks, where he was used mostly on the wing and only occasionally.

In the final against France he came on for the last four minutes, while in the semi-final against Australia he entered the game in the 72nd minute and was shown a yellow card three minutes later.

As a member of the All Blacks he was part of a team chock full of the world's best players in each position.

That's not the case with the Kiwis. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Simon Mannering and Williams are probably the only four players who'd definitely make it into the starting teams if the two countries were combined.

But more than the other three, it will be Williams who'll be most needed in the final.

England were aware of that and tried to smash him whenever they could during last weekend's semifinal. As Williams carried his badly beaten up body out of Wembley Stadium it was no surprise when he said it was the toughest game he'd ever played in.

He can expect more of that sort of treatment from Australia, but once again he'll get stuck in and look to give as good as he gets.

There are so many strengths to the game of the newly crowned International Player of the Year, which was a remarkable feat after five years away from the game he first shot to prominence in.

His contribution to this Kiwis campaign has been on many levels and New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney says his impact has been massive.

"It has been fairly obvious from a performance point of view," Kearney said. "But when you look behind the scenes, the impact he's had on young guys like Alex Glenn and even Jesse Bromwich, who comes from a very professional environment at the Storm, he's really helped those young guys around him.

"Even Kevin Locke, he's started stretching before training and in meetings, so that sort of impact has been a real positive for young guys trying to find their way in international foot.

"I think that's been a real benefit for us as a group.

"His football knowledge is very good, he contributes to the team discussions in a real positive way and that's helped everyone.

"I know it's been of assistance to myself and Ivan [Cleary, assistant coach], so he's had a great contribution to the team."

All that Williams has really achieved in career so far has been at club level, he's helped the Roosters and Chiefs win titles. But in the early hours of tomorrow morning, he might just do it for his country too and then, he really will have established his legacy

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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