Chiefs backline star Tim Nanai-Williams happy to face the heat in Brisbane again
Tim Nanai-Williams doesn't mind a little early-season heat in his rugby. In fact, you could say he prefers it.
So the experienced Chiefs and Counties Manukau utility back had no hesitation in re-committing to a second year at the Brisbane Global Rugby Tens to help launch his season. Even better as one of the tournament's official ambassadors for the 2018 second edition, from February 9-10 at Suncorp Stadium.
Nanai-Williams and his Chiefs team were the success stories of the inaugural 2017 event, shaking off the intense Brisbane heat, and a first-up defeat to the Melbourne Rebels, to charge to the title.
The twinkle-toed Chiefs back is a big fan of the Tens format, which he says is an ideal platform for some pre-season sharpening, and believes the event is here to stay.
"It's a good way to kick-start the season," he told stuff.co.nz at the tournament's launch in Brisbane. "That's what it's all about. There are some young talented boys coming through and it's a good way to get them going before the season starts. We'll be looking to retain the title, but there are some good teams, and some good teams coming next year that are new to the tournament."
Tournament organises Duco Events announced that they had added the Fiji national team and Conrad Smith's French club Pau to the field this year of the 10 Australasian franchises (including the Western Force), Japan's Panasonic Wild Knights and Samoa.
It is understood that All Blacks legend Smith will be part of the Pau contingent that will take their first crack at Tens, and they perhaps might like to heed Nanai-Williams' advice about what he and the Chiefs learned from year one.
"You definitely can't throw the ball around like you would in sevens," said the 28-year-old Samoan international. "We found that out straight away after that game against Melbourne. It's pretty similar to XVs, and you have to set a few rucks before you can see the space and go out wide.
"When you say Tens, you think automatically there will be a lot of space. But that's not really the case: we had to go back and look at the footage. You had to set a few rucks and bring players in before getting it wide to those flashy backs."
Nanai-Williams applauded the decision to move the event out of the heat of the day (the 2017 tournament created issues for players and fans alike as temperatures hit 39degC, with high humidity to boot) into a late-afternoon/evening format.
"Heaps of the boys were complaining about the heat and it will be good for the fans as well, and will be a bit cooler watching the games," he said.
"The heat was a big part, but we had a week in Queensland before, and I think we had got used to it. It just seemed pretty normal."
Nanai-Williams does not anticipate any major issues for the Chiefs, either, as they embark on the post-Dave Rennie era under new coach Colin Cooper who will also require new halves to step into the boots of Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Aaron Cruden.
"With Coops there will be some changes, but they're going to be exciting changes and new ideas," said Nanai-Williams. "But the identity will still be there. I don't think Coops will change that.
"Rens has left a really good platform for Coops to work off, and he can only add to that. We've got a great culture, and the legacy he has left behind, with those two Super Rugby titles in a row, and a string of playoff appearances, that has to be carried on.
"Tawera and Aaron are big losses, but we've got guys like Damian McKenzie and Brad Weber who are ready to step up. We've got some class acts coming through too, like Anton Lienert-Brown, and we've still got Brodie Retallick and Sam Cane to lead us."
The other big challenge for Nanai-Williams next year will be with Samoa, if required, as the island nation looks to shake off its 2017 woes and claim the region's final spot at the 2019 World Cup via a playoff against a European nation.
"It's going to be a challenge, but I'm very confident with the calibre of players we've got," he added.
* Marc Hinton travelled to the launch of the Brisbane Global Rugby Tens courtesy of Duco Events Australia.