Nothing sinister in Williams-Foley banter

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by AAP & Beth Newman

Don’t rule out seeing more of the running banter battle between Bernard Foley and Sonny Bill Williams, should the latter be cleared to play in Dunedin.

Foley and Williams played out a war of words for much of Saturday night, with the All Blacks centre rubbing Foley's hair after a desperate effort from the Australian playmaker stopped Beauden Barrett scoring off a charge down.

“He was just complimenting me on my haircut,” Foley joked.

“It was nothing really - just enjoying the battle and enjoying the contest of the game and that's probably going to continue.

“It's probably not something I engage in all the time but as players we have to know what's going to get us in the right mind and what puts us in the place where we can compete and keep competing, so that's the players who have to find their own way and allow them to perform at their best."

While the Wallabies’ attack sharpened up in the latter stages of the 54-34 loss, Foley said the only way was up for a backline that was still in essence a fledgling combination.

Kurtley Beale and Samu Kerevi featured in their first Tests since 2016, and first matches of any kind in more than a month, while debutant Curtis Rona had a baptism of fire in a brutal opener.

“There's guys in the setup for the first time and I think we can only get better,” Foley said.

“We've identified areas we can get better in and we've put things in place now that we'll better this weekend.”

Dane Haylett-Petty looks a strong chance to make it into the matchday 23 after a biceps injury, with Tuesday’s training session his biggest test yet.

Whether Foley will have the chance to reopen his battle with Williams is unclear, with the All Blacks centre still under a potential cloud for this weekend’s game, with SANZAAR reportedly opening a review into a missed head knock on Saturday night.

The All Blacks have already confirmed one change to their team to be unveiled on Thursday - also because of a head knock - with reserve prop Wyatt Crockett suffering the blow during the 54-34 dissection of the Wallabies in Sydney.

All Blacks assistant Ian Foster said second five-eighth Williams wasn't pushed at Tuesday's session but emerged afterwards with no concussion symptoms.

Williams was also symptom-free in the immediate aftermath of the Sydney Test, with the All Blacks admitting they hadn't seen the early collision which seemingly left the 32-year-old disorientated.

An independent match doctor also missed Williams' adverse effects.

Foster said they have since monitored the cross-code star closely since.

"The doc has done what he always does when there is a suspicion of something," Foster said.

"He was held back a little bit today so we could make sure he was absolutely clear but the signs are really positive."

Australia takes on New Zealand on Saturday night in Dunedin, kicking off at 5:35pm AEST LIVE on FOX SPORTS.