Rugby League World Cup: Sonny Bill Williams starts for New Zealand against Samoa
Sonny Bill Williams will start for New Zealand when they open their World Cup defence against Samoa on Sunday.
Last Updated: 28/10/13 8:39am
The 28-year-old has been handed a spot in the Kiwis' second row as he looks to become the first player to win a World Cup in the 13 and 15-man codes.
Sam Moa and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck are set for their New Zealand debuts and their inclusion means five of the NRL Grand Final-winning Sydney Roosters side are in their squad.
Tuivasa-Sheck, the Dally M 'Winger of the Year' after a superb NRL season, is preferred to Jason Nightingale and will be partnered on the other flank by Manu Vatuvei.
Coach Stephen Kearney said: "Sonny brings a sense of confidence to people around him.
"He puts his hand up and he delivers. He has such talent, but he understands that his main role is defence and he's got to get down and get dirty sometimes.
"The Roosters boys have brought energy and momentum into camp and I thought it was important to capitalise on that.
"It's a matter of giving Roger an opportunity. There's a real depth of talent on the wings and I'm very mindful of making sure we're keeping everyone with their hands on the footy.
"Jason Nightingale had a game last week (a 50-0 victory over the Cook Islands) and played really well. But it's a great opportunity for Roger. He's going to have the rest of his Roosters boys in the group and that will certainly help him."
Wigan second row forward Harrison Hansen, Samoa's newly-appointed captain, will miss the game after failing recover from the leg injury he suffered in last Saturday's 52-16 defeat by England Knights.
Samoa, who failed to make it out of the group stage in 2008, will also be without centre Tim Lafai, who was given a one-match ban for punching in that match against the Knights.
New Zealand: Hoffman, Tuivasa-Sheck, Whare, Goodwin, Vatuvei, Foran, Johnson, Waerea-Hargreaves, Luke, Bromwich, Pritchard, Williams, Mannering (capt). Replacements: Taylor, Kasiano, Moa, Nu'uausala, Eastwood, Matulino
Samoa: Ah Mau, Faalogo, Godinet, Hansen, Leilua, Maitua, Manumaleaii, Masoe, Matagi, Milford, Sau'u, Soliola, Sue, Taufua, Vidot, A Winterstein, F Winterstein