No red-card debt for Williams to repay

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Sonny Bill Williams doesn’t feel like he has any extra debt to pay on his return from a shoulder charge suspension this weekend.

Williams hasn’t played since he was red-carded in the second Lions Test and suspended for four matches.

His availability for the opening Bledisloe is controversial in itself, with the hulking centre only cleared after New Zealand Rugby appealed a World Rugby decision over the matches nominated as part of his suspension.

Technicalities will be swept aside on Saturday, though and the 29-year-old said he had moved on as had his teammates.

“I spoke to the boys early on in the piece,” he said.

“That issue's been dealt with and in that third week before that third test I just tried to prepare them, especially , the centres, as well as I could, same as Crotty and that hasn't been an issue.

“It was just misjudgement and got the tackle wrong. I certainly didn't try to shoulder his head on purpose.”

Williams found some silver linings in his enforced absence from rugby, though.

“It was really tough, obviously, to be red carded in such a big game and obviously missing the deciding third Test," he said.

“But with every negative there's always a positive and I got  to spend some time with my family, particularly my girls and I was lucky enough to shoot off to Fiji and spend some quality time with the little ones and refresh.”

He’ll be teaming up with a similarly absent centre in Ryan Crotty, who played just half an hour of the Lions series before being injured.

Crotty played in the champion Crusaders outfit post the Lions series and said while he had been devastated with the timing, his focus was all trans-Tasman.

“It was the one thing that got me out of bed to really work hard all preseason, knowing that carrot (of the Lions series) was there,” he said.

“Immensely frustrating but injuries happen and you get over it and you help the boys that were playing prepare as best they can.”

The midfielders are looking forward to having Damian McKenzie at their disposal, rather than slipping through their side’s defence in Super Rugby.

“It's nice to be passing him the ball rather than tackling him,” Crotty said.

“He's quick, his feet, his footwork's really sharp, his line running's good and he's got a massive engine.”

Williams said McKenzie’s fearlessness made him a special weapon.

“He's got a toughness about him too. He'll run into the front row without hesitation," he said.

"That's another thing he has in abundance that makes him a special player.”

The Wallabies take on the All Blacks on Saturday night, kicking off at 8pm AEST LIVE on FOX SPORTS, Network Ten, WIN and via RADIO. Buy tickets here.