Rugby

SBW a 'talented' mercenary

2014-10-23 07:45
Sonny Bill Williams (File)

Wellington - Former All Blacks coach Laurie Mains on Thursday labelled code-hopping rugby star Sonny Bill Williams a mercenary, albeit a supremely talented one.

READ: Laurie Mains chats to Sport24

Williams, 29, is beginning his second stint with the All Blacks after spending two seasons playing rugby league in Australia and has been slotted straight back into the squad for next month's northern hemisphere tour.

Mains, who coached the New Zealanders from 1992-95, said the current All Blacks hierarchy appeared content to let Williams flit from one code to another at will.

"He's a mercenary, there's no question about that, but he's a terribly gifted sportsman," Mains told Sport24.

"While we might not all agree with the New Zealand rugby union letting him come and go as he pleases, I guess that's the reality of professional sport."

Despite his reservations, Mains said Williams' talent justified the decision to give him an armchair ride into the All Blacks.

"With the World Cup to defend next year, I couldn't be critical of Steve Hansen's decision to bring Williams back," he said. "Hansen has done a great job - part of his success has been about getting the right people around him to complement his skills."

Williams won the last of his 19 All Black caps in August 2012.

He began his career in rugby league, winning the 2004 NRL title with the Canterbury Bulldogs in his debut season before walking out on the team mid-contract to play rugby union in France.

He contributed to the New Zealand 2011 World Cup win and snared the 2012 Super Rugby title with the Chiefs before returning to the NRL with the Sydney Roosters last year, picking up another title with the side.

Mains also revealed that he rates blockbusting winger Julia Savea a better player than the legendary Jonah Lomu, who he coached to the 1995 Rugby World Cup final against the victorious Springboks.

"The All Blacks have a better wing now in Julian Savea," he said of the player known as "The Bus".

"Savea is the more complete footballer. While he possesses pace and power, he is much stronger on defence than Lomu ever was and goes looking for work.

"However, one of the great rugby tragedies is that when Jonah should have been hitting his peak, he was struck down with a kidney disease. Who knows how good he may have been?"

Read more on:    sonny bill williams  |  rugby
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