New Zealand Rugby
Sonny Bill suffers bench setback
September 23, 2010
Canterbury's Sonny Bill Williams challenges the Bay of Plenty defence during the round six ITM Cup match, AMI Stadium, Christchurch, New Zealand, September 3, 2010
Sonny Bill Williams has shown mixed form for Canterbury © Getty Images

Sonny Bill Williams' goal of forcing his way into All Blacks contention has taken a blow as he lost his starting place for Canterbury's ITM Cup match against Wellington on Saturday.

Ryan Crotty returns from injury to take Williams' place in the centres, where the former rugby league star has mixed sparkling attacking play with some basic errors in recent weeks.

Williams came off the bench to replace Crotty, a Super Rugby regular for the Crusaders, against Bay of Plenty on September 3 and started subsequent matches against Northland and Taranaki. Williams has proven to be an adept offloader of the ball in the tackle, setting up a string of tries this season, but he has shown weaknesses in other parts of his game, such as defensive positioning and securing possession on the ground.

There are four other changes to the Canterbury side. Hooker Corey Flynn returns from All Blacks duty and to start in place of Steve Fualau while fellow-All Black Colin Slade starts ahead of Stephen Brett at first-five. Brett is also demoted to the bench.

Three players return from injury - Crotty, No.8 Nasi Manu (knee) and wing Tu Umaga-Marshall (shoulder). Manu and Umaga-Marshall start ahead of Ash Parker and Patrick Osborne respectively.

The Christchurch match will be played in front of a near-capacity crowd after the Canterbury Rugby Union opted to make the match free admission following the recent earthquakes in the region.


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