Friend hopes Aussies can stop Sonny Bill

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Australia is on a crash course with a New Zealand side set to feature Sonny Bill Williams on the opening day of the Sydney 7s but new coach Andy Friend believes he might have a way to stop the Kiwi superstar.

Friend won’t be fully in charge of the Aussie side in Sydney, taking over full-time after this weekend, but he said Williams has a weak spot.

“Sonny’s a man if you try and take him high you’re not going to succeed,” he said.

“So if he ends up playing against us, the message will be take him low and make sure that you’re defending on the inside and outside to wherever he’s offloading.”

While Williams is a foe to many Aussies, new recruit Quade Cooper is a good friend of the cross-code player and has sought advice from him over since Williams’ debut in Wellington.

“He said he’s still a rookie but  I watched a few of his games and saw how well he went in patches,” he said.

“But it’s like anything, you learn as quick as you can and you adapt as fast as possible but there’s still so much learning to do.

“I think both for myself and for him it’s very similar to boxing.

“When we started boxing we knew very little and still do but for something that we put ourselves in that position to learn and that’s where the challenge comes in just being able to learn on the run and learn something new.

The Australia-New Zealand pool match will be an intriguing one but Kiwi captain Tim Mikkelson said they would be wary of the Aussies.

“The thing with (Australia) is they're very competitive and they’re a great physical team,” he said.

“They’ve got that great mix sort of like South Africa, they’ve got the big forwards, the guys with pace and skill in the middle.

“We always find it hard going against each other being the rivalry but I think they'll go well this tournament and hopefully both go through in our pool.”

New Zealand has faced similar issues to Australia when it comes to managing players in 15s and Sevens.

Akira Ioane, who starred for the side in Wellington, will be one of a handful of players who return to Super Rugby in the coming weeks.

Mikkelson said they were prepared for the challenge that a changing team would provide over the coming weeks.

“Big test for us, a big squad of over 30 and they're at home and keen to come back,” he said.

“It’ll be a big step up when those guys go back to Super (Rugby) and hopefully we can step up for those tournaments.”