New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams ‘raring to go’ against Australia
By Katie Shanahan
Last Updated: 16/08/17 10:30am
Sonny Bill Williams is likely to return for New Zealand's opener against Australia after a four-match ban with the centre keen to get back on the pitch.
The 32-year-old was originally ruled out of Saturday's Rugby Championship clash after a dangerous shoulder charge on British and Irish Lions winger Anthony Watson in the second Test of the three-match series last month.
But Williams was cleared to play two weeks ago and All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster says the double World Cup winner is now anxious to just get out and play against the Wallabies, live on Sky Sports Action.
"He's certainly raring to go," Foster said. "He's done his four-game suspension, it's been an awkward time for him and it's been tough.
"But he's made sure that he has used the time smartly, he's trained well and been able to get on top of a couple of niggles.
"He's back charging around. You've got to sort of hold him back a little bit."
New Zealand fans will be pleased to see Williams back in action if he is selected, and as expected, to partner Ryan Crotty in the midfield.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has been looking for a settled midfield partnership since the international retirements of Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith after the 2015 World Cup and the Williams-Crotty axis was seen as their potential successors.
Williams, however, chose to concentrate on rugby sevens last year and then ruptured his Achilles tendon in his first match at the Rio Games.
That meant he had a late return to Super Rugby with the Auckland Blues this year and has since battled other niggling injuries and trying to work his way back to match fitness.
The Sydney game, which doubles as the first Bledisloe Cup encounter of the year, provides a launch pad for Williams to focus on performing for the All Blacks in the build up to what is likely to be his last World Cup in Japan 2019.
"His eyes are on one task and that's us doing well on Saturday," Foster said. "He's doing everything he can for this team to make sure we prepare well."