SBW starts on Counties bench

2014-10-07 12:00
Sonny Bill Williams (Getty Images)

Wellington - Sonny Bill Williams will make his second return to rugby union from the bench after being named among the replacements on Tuesday for Counties Manukau's provincial clash against Auckland in New Zealand's ITM Cup on Wednesday.

The imposing, offloading centre only returned to the sport on Monday after completing a two-year stint with Australian Rugby League outfit the Sydney Roosters.

Williams, 29, a one-time New Zealand heavyweight boxing champion, last played union in 2012 before quitting New Zealand and the All Blacks for a short stint in Japan and then switching back to the code he started with.

The 2011 World Cup-winning back took part in his first training session on Monday with his Counties team mates before doing some extra work on his breakdown skills with the team's coach Tana Umaga.

The former All Blacks captain coached Williams when he made his first switch to union in 2008 with French club Toulon.

Williams was buzzing to be back with Umaga and said he felt his transition from league to union would be a lot shorter this time.

"Definitely, that's probably the most pleasing thing, it feels more like second nature," Williams told reporters after his first session back in the 15-a-side game.

"When I went back to the Roosters I always tried to continue the skills I learnt in rugby. It is just about bringing those skills and implementing them back into the 15-man game."

Williams is also likely to feature for Counties on Sunday against Tasman, with expectations high in New Zealand that he will be fast-tracked back into the All Blacks squad for their November tour to Britain and the United States.

Williams, who will play for the Chiefs in Super Rugby next season, said he was not getting ahead of himself.

"It's step-by-step. I'm at Counties and if you think about those things, nothing falls into place," he said.

"My job now is to play good footy at Counties and earn my stripes there.

"The guys here have been awesome, really welcoming and I'm just keen to get out there."

The return of Williams had Counties opponents Auckland wary.

"There will be plenty of hype out Counties way," Auckland coach Paul Feeney said.

"He'll be in good nick and all his skill set that he has been putting to practice in league will be evident on the rugby field."

Umaga, though, tried to play down the ability of his headline attraction to make an instant impact after so long away.

"Our expectations of Sonny is that he just needs to learn the game again," the said.

"Part of that is our role in giving him an introduction to the intricacies of rugby and helping him out there before he goes with the ABs (All Blacks) on the end of year tour."

Read more on:    sonny bill williams  |  rugby

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