New Zealand Rugby
Nonu praise for 'awesome' Williams
November 15, 2010
Ma'a Nonu and Sonny Bill Williams line-up ahead of the All Blacks victory over England at Twickenham © Getty Images
New Zealand centre Ma'a Nonu has hailed centre rival Sonny Bill Williams as an "awesome" talent and backed the rising star to inspire even greater things from an already dominant All Blacks side.
Nonu watched from the sidelines at Murrayfield on Saturday as Williams - wearing the No.12 shirt that Nonu has monopolised in recent years - powered the All Blacks to a 49-3 demolition of Scotland. The 25-year-old Williams' Man of the Match display in only his second Test appearance underlined his international class and Nonu believes there is more to come from the former Kiwi rugby league international.
"I'm not surprised by the way he has settled into Test rugby," Nonu told ESPNscrum. "I've got to know him over the last three weeks or so and we've worked together quite closely so it has been no surprise to see him play so well. His offloads against Scotland were awesome and he makes it look so easy."
Williams made his Test bow against England earlier this month in the No.13 berth but was switched to inside centre against the Scots with devastating effect. But far from fearing the arrival of a genuine contender for his starting place, Nonu has welcomed the competition.
"I think it is great for the team to have guys like Sonny in the squad who increase the competition for places," added Nonu. "If you've got players like him around it can only make what is a great team even better."
A modest Williams insisted that Nonu and Conrad Smith were still the best centre combination available to head coach Graham Henry following his latest eye-catching performance but that could change in the coming months should SBW continue on his current development curve. And while Nonu is set to play a key role in Williams' rugby education he insists he can learn a lot from his pupil in return.
"We're a team and we're always looking to help each other and bring out the best in each other," he said. "Sonny is a learner but we can learn from each other. The skills he brings from league are immense and without a doubt we can learn from him as well - especially his ability to offload and his running lines. He's such a big guy and he's almost unstoppable."
Williams was not the only league-based inspiration for the All Blacks' last weekend with New Zealand's dramatic victory over Australia in the final of the Four Nations tournament also providing a timely boost. The Kiwis' victory was largely orchestrated by Benji Marshall - a former team-mate of Williams - who Nonu believes would also be a great addition to the 15-man code. "Most definitely," enthused the 28-year-old Nonu. "He is another awesome talent and a spectacular player."
While Williams' international career is in its infancy, two other All Blacks were celebrating at the other end of the experience spectrum on Saturday night. Captain Richie McCaw and fullback Mils Muliaina both won their 92nd Test caps at Murrayfiled to equal the feat of New Zealand rugby legend Sean Fitzpatrick - an achievement not lost on Nonu and his team-mates.
"After the game we made a point of commending these two warriors," revealed Nonu. "They have been the backbone of this side for the last ten years and they epitomise the team in what they have achieved. Playing 92 Tests in this day and age is unreal and they are not done yet because I'm sure they've got a lot more rugby in them.
"Richie is a superb captain. Every game, day in, day out. They may be ageing but they just keep getting better and better. They are an inspirations for all the other players who strive to be like them. I probably speak for all the boys when I say that we are very fortunate to be playing in an age alongside them both."
Ma'a Nonu was speaking to ESPNscrum.com on behalf of adidas - official partner of the All Blacks
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Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum.