From the Touchline

(Rugby News Service) Wednesday 19 October 2011
From the Touchline
Sonny Bill Williams lens a hand to the international press pack

AUCKLAND, 19 Oct. - A lighter look at Rugby World Cup 2011.

The numbers

3 - Sunday's final against New Zealand will be France's third consecutive RWC match with the same starting XV, equalling Argentina's record set at RWC 2007.

36 - The number of RWC matches in which New Zealand have scored more tries than their opponents. They have won them all. Their six RWC losses have all come in matches where they have scored either the same number of tries as their opposition or fewer.

He said it

"I don't care what you think of how the French have played in the last few weeks, they'll be a completely different side. They'll be a team that's possessed and if we're not at that level or better, then we'll walk away with nothing."
- New Zealand second row Ali Williams knows how dangerous France can be when written off. He was in the All Blacks side in the 2007 quarter-final in which France came back from 13 points down to beat tournament favourites the All Blacks 20-18.

Williams joins focus group

As well as sharing his views on France at a press conference on Wednesday, Ali Williams revealed how New Zealand decide on which haka to perform before a match.

"We decide on the bus to the game," he said. "Richie (McCaw) will send a text to the guys and there'll be a 'beep beep' and it will tell us which haka we're doing. I'm deadly serious."

Centre Sonny Bill Williams revealed more behind-the-scenes secrets when he was asked what has been his biggest eye-opener during his time with the All Blacks.

"Probably all the meetings that we have. We didn't have that many meetings back in my league days. We just used to turn up before the game."

Sonny Bill also revealed another of his talents - as a photographer. He picked up a photographer's camera towards the end of the press conference to take pictures of his friend Israel Dagg at kicking practice.

Award-winning AP photographer Ross Land, owner of the borrowed camera, said "he's not bad, pretty good actually," as he showed colleagues some of Williams's shots.

Brad to the bone

With Brad Thorn set to retire from rugby at the end of RWC 2011, the bruising second row is certain of securing a place as an All Blacks cult hero.

Three of the 36-year-old's colleagues were asked to sum him up in one word or phrase.

"Relentless" was assistant coach Wayne Smith's assessment, while hooker Andrew Hore described him as "professional".

However, Conrad Smith's reply is most likely to resonate with the long line of opponents Thorn has left crumpled in a heap during his dual-code career.

The combative centre said: "Big, bad Brad."

Wallabies cool on freezer training

Australia coach Robbie Deans may be considering alternative training methods following the semi-final loss to the All Blacks, but apparently none of them involve putting his players in a Polish freezer.

Wales, Australia's opponents in Friday's Bronze Final, spent two pre-tournament training camps in a deep-freeze cryogenic centre in Spala, Poland.

The facility exposes players to temperatures of down to minus-120 degrees Celsius in an attempt to aid muscle recovery and improve rehabilitation of soft tissue injuries.

Asked if he would contemplate using the facility, Deans said: "It's possible ... but it's an awful long way to Poland."

Wallabies veteran Nathan Sharpe showed slightly more interest in the idea until he was told exactly how chilly the facility could get, after which he went cold on the concept.

England's damp legacy

The tales of misadventure from England's RWC 2011 campaign continue to be a subject of mirth in New Zealand.

During a boat cruise around Auckland's Waitemata Harbour on Tuesday, the ferry passed the old white lighthouse, which had a St George's flag flying from it. "Perhaps an England fan put it there," the cruise guide quipped over the PA.

After a brief mention of the England team's exit from the tournament he added: "One of them even took a dive off one of our ferries."

This cheeky reference to England centre Manu Tuilagi's unscheduled post-knockout dip drew a fair few chortles from passengers.

Kleeberger stubbles his money

Adam Kleeberger's beard has been consigned to the annals of rugby trivia after attracting international media attention during the early weeks of RWC 2011.

Kleeberger and his monster beard may have parted company, but they are still a force to be reckoned with in a couple of good causes, having raised 5,000 Canadian dollars and counting to help with cancer awareness in Canada and earthquake recovery in Christchurch.

A crowd of 500 watched in Victoria, British Columbia, as the Kleeberger beard was dispatched, with Canadian comedian Rick Mercer wielding the clippers.

RNS gs/sg