Sonny Bill is happier without the hype
AUCKLAND, 12 Oct. - There is no denying Sonny Bill Williams’ superstar status in New Zealand, with adoring adults and children shouting his name from the sidelines at every match and training session.
But as the All Blacks prepare for Sunday's semi-final encounter with Australia at Eden Park, the man himself is not buying into the hype.
"Firstly, I just hope I get picked and I'm involved,” Williams told a press conference on Wednesday. “If I am, it's going to be great. There's nothing better than this stage.
“Pretty much the whole reason I came back here (to New Zealand) was to test myself against the best players and try and make this team, make this squad.”
Standing at 191cm and tipping the scales at 110kg, Williams' imposing physique might garner a considerable chunk of the limelight, but teammate Andy Ellis says he is anything but the rock star he is made out to be by many.
"A lot of you see him in the spotlight, but when you get him away from that he's really a quiet and humble guy,” said the scrum half.
“He deals with it really well, he's got a good head on him. He knows very much it's about the team. He does what he can for the team and at the end of the day that's what it's all about - trying to win that big one at the end.
“I can promise you he really, genuinely loves the team and he wants the team to do well."
While pressure might be mounting in the lead-up to Sunday’s last-four clash, it is business as usual for Williams.
“I'm just doing what I usually do, not reading the media and just doing all the little things right, ticking all the boxes during the week,” the 26-year-old said.
“I'm just standing it out, not looking back at the past at what's happened or the future and what might happen, I'm just really focusing on the detailed parts of my game.
"Ticking those boxes, then I feel sweet going into a game because you've done all you can. Sometimes you're going to play good, sometimes you're going to play bad but at the end of the day if you ticked all those boxes you'll be sweet."
New Zealand coach Graham Henry raised a few eyebrows when he played Williams at left wing instead of centre in the quarter-final victory over Argentina last weekend.
But, even though the Australians may see his relative inexperience out wide as a weakness, the former rugby league player would be happy to play there again on Sunday evening against the Wallabies.
"I think I've surprised myself, how well I went on the wing,” he said. “I didn't think I could do it. Some people didn't think I could play rugby and I showed them that I can.
“I'm always a confident player, so if I'm put out there I know I'll do the job as best I can, just do all the little things and hopefully it comes good.”
However, Williams' main focus this week is simply making the starting XV against Australia, which would be no small feat considering the wealth of talent coach Henry has at his disposal.
"Just like the rest of the boys, we all want to be involved,” Williams said. “The competition is fierce within the team, but it's a good competition and it brings out the best in us. We all want to be there and we all know the magnitude of the event."
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