'He's given so much for the jersey': Kerevi backs SBW for World Cup

International
by Emma Greenwood

The form centre of the Super Rugby competition - and arguably the world's best in the position this year - has heaped praise on Sonny Bill Williams, saying the under-fire superstar was "outstanding" for the All Blacks in their thrashing of the Wallabies.

Williams was handed the defensive assignment on Kerevi after an injury to Jack Goodhue in Perth ruled him out of Saturday's return fixture at Eden Park.

The Wallabies' lack of ball meant Kerevi was nowhere near as potent as he has been in earlier Tests this season, although he made two clean breaks and beat four defenders to set up half-chances and looked potent in the early stages of the match when Australia was still in the arm wrestle.

Sonny Bill Williams escapes the desperate clutches of Samu Kerevi and Izack Rodda to plant the ball for a try in the Bledisloe Cup decider. Photo: Getty Images

A diplomatic Kerevi said he could not comment on the All Blacks' World Cup selection but he'd be surprised if the former NRL star wasn't in Japan.

But he could not understand why Williams would be under pressure to hold his spot in the team if fit.

"All that chat is disappointing because he's given so much for the jersey," Kerevi said.

"He's an outstanding player and I was really happy that I got to play him tonight."

With the future of 34-year-old Williams undecided and Kerevi headed to Japan for the next three years, this was the last opportunity for the pair to face off in a Bledisloe Test.

Samu Kerevi has been arguably the form centre in world rugby this season. Photo: Getty Images

"He's kind of on a list that I had to play of all the centres that New Zealand's produced, because they're the best in my eyes," the Wallabies vice-captain said.

"I'm always trying to be the best for myself and I'm just trying to compete with the best.

"It was really cool to play him and I thought he played outstanding for them.

"I can't speak too much on World Cup selection but tonight he played outstanding for New Zealand."

 

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen was keeping his World Cup squad cards close to his chest after the match but said Williams had played well.

"Sonny's been under pressure. He hasn't played a lot of games because of his injury and he's (now) had a run of games and played well," Hansen said.

"When we needed someone to go direct, funnily enough, the ball would go into his hands and he'd do that, so we're pretty happy with how he played."

The veteran has welcomed the pressure that comes with attempting to win an All Blacks spot, saying he was comfortable being under the microscope in his recovery from a hamstring injury that followed on from a knee problem that kept him out of much of the Super Rugby season.

"You're always on trial and if you don't think you are, then you'll be slipping," Williams told AAP in the lead-up to the Eden Park Test.

"For myself, I need to be where my feet are and play my best footy because we've got four other world class midfielders in the team."