Sonny Bill Williams wasn't the only new face at All Blacks training today - Chiefs halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow and lock Craig Clarke also joined the action in Auckland along with Hurricanes first five Beauden Barrett
Williams' drawn out contract saga finally came to a close with the New Zealand Rugby Union and his Japanese club Panasonic Wild Knights agreeing to terms for a two-week deal that will see the star midfield back play the first two Bledisloe Cup tests before moving to Asia.
"I think when you know there are going to be a few complications you sit back and relax a bit. We've just been waiting. But the fact that he's here training today and was here with us last night is fantastic - we have got a full week's preparation," was how assistant coach Ian Foster described the process coming to a suitable conclusion.
Insurance arrangements have been sorted out and Williams has passed his medical.
He looked fit and certainly seemed to be enjoying his time at training.
There's little doubt he will team up with Ma'a Nonu in the midfield for Saturday night's opener against the Wallabies in Sydney.
Kerr-Barlow, Clarke and Barrett won't be in the mix for that match, but Foster said the All Blacks felt it was important to get them involved ahead of this second stage of the season - that is the Rugby Championship, which now incorporates Argentina in a four-team competition.
Their presence will help make up numbers today and tomorrow for opposed training, as well as give them a taste of the All Blacks' methods.
Foster left little doubt that Kerr-Barlow was seen as the next halfback in the pecking order, Barrett had a key role as a back-up No 10, as was shown in the third test against Ireland, and the All Blacks were keen to monitor Clarke's knee injury with their locking numbers restricted to just three specialists in their current squad of 28.
"Beauden was with us in June, obviously we have reduced our squad size, but it's just a chance to give him a couple of days early in our camp just to keep it fresh in his mind what we are doing," Foster said.
Foster knows Kerr-Barlow well from his time with the Chiefs and has been delighted with his progress in their title-winning team this year. He might only be an injury away from being required.
"He's a do-er. Things happen around him. He's energetic - his enthusiasm is something he has done really well and it's nice to give an opportunity to be in the camp."
The All Blacks name their team on Thursday afternoon and travel to Sydney that night.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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