New Zealand Rugby
McAlister backs Williams for big things
June 7, 2009
Barbarians centre Sonny Bill Williams embraces the Wallabies' Stirling Mortlock, Australia v Barbarians, Sydney Football Stadium, Sydney, Australia, June 6, 2009
The Barbarians' Sonny Bill Williams embraces the Wallabies' Stirling Mortlock following their clash in Sydney © Getty Images

The New Zealand Rugby Union have been urged to 'break the bank' to sign recent rugby union recruit Sonny Bill Williams.

All Blacks centre Luke McAlister, who is set to return to the international stage this weekend, needed just 80 minutes playing alongside him in the Barbarians' defeat to Australia in Sydney

"He's still new to the game and to perform like he did; his strength and his size is going to get him through, no matter what," the 22-Test All Black McAlister said. "Just a bit of guidance and a bit of skill work, and learning the game playing with good players, he'll be outstanding.

"I don't know what his plans are for the next few years, but New Zealand should break the bank to get him over. " Whether the NZRU can afford the 23-year-old for a Super rugby deal is another matter as he pockets megabucks in Toulon and has signed there for another season.

The reaction was less forgiving in the Australian media today after Williams' role in the Barbarians' heavy 7-55 defeat. "Sonny Who," said the Sun-Herald's back page headline. "Baa-Baa Black Sheep - but what a waste of Sonny Bill's talent," said the Sunday Telegraph.

It was all about Sonny Bill -- formerly of rugby league fame for the Kiwis and Bulldogs -- as the Sydney Football Stadium crowd of 39,688 buzzed with expectation. The first five minutes summed up a tough night at the office for the 107kg giant from Auckland.

Barely two minutes had elapsed when Seilala Mapusua ran the decoy and McAlister sent Williams charging through his opposite Stirling Mortlock. He was only stopped from scoring with his first touch by a wonder tackle from halfback Luke Burgess, giving him 19kg in weight.

Then, two minutes later, captain Mortlock spied his chance when he smashed Williams front on, just as a McAlister cut-out pass arrived. Wallabies backs went looking for Williams all night, and there was another jolting hit from Lachie Turner later.

It was a cautious pass mark for Williams, with limited opportunities. After all, he only played his first game of rugby seven months ago and this was his 16th game in all -- by far the most competitive.

"Let's be fair to the kid, let's not put too much pressure on him. By his own admission he's learning the game and he certainly stood up and performed admirably," Barbarians coach Dai Young said. "He's the first to say that he's got a bit to learn. He's only played a few games for Toulon and the first thing he said after the game was he was amazed at the speed and how quick the ball gets recycled and how much the ball is in play."

There was encouragement from Mortlock who said Williams "held his own", while Wallabies coach Robbie Deans offered some realism.

"The toughest thing for Sonny was going essentially from club rugby into an international," Deans said. "You just don't get the license to play and you could see he was often looking to offload and play a game that you can probably get away with at club level, but you just don't here because the channels close and the contact is more significant. "


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