Scotland star Stuart Hogg has denounced comments by Sonny Bill Williams and accused the former All Black of not caring about New Zealand’s World Cup exit to England.
Williams recently returned to rugby league and will play for the Toronto Wolfpack in the English Super League next season, in a deal which makes him the wealthiest player across either code.
The 34-year-old admitted that his faith allowed him to get over the upset 19-7 defeat by England in ‘about five to ten minutes’, with Hogg subsequently criticising Williams for his attitude.
The Scotland fullback, whose World Cup campaign ended in defeat by hosts Japan, noted that he would be ‘very annoyed’ if one of his teammates had made similar comments following a defeat.
‘If you’re in that situation you don’t care enough … you’ve got to care about your own performance, you’ve got to care about your team’s performance and you’ve got to care about the environment you’re in,’ said Hogg to the UK’s Daily Mail.
‘I think that ultimately will come out in your performance. If you’re not caring then, ultimately, what’s the point in being there?
‘For me, I think Sonny Bill’s mind is off it for other reasons and I think he’s pretty happy with what’s going to be in his bank account by the sounds of it.’
Hogg did, however, acknowledge the achievements of the multi-talented sportsman, who represented New Zealand in both rugby union and league. The double World Cup winner also turned out for the All Blacks Sevens team and was even a successful heavyweight boxer.
‘I love everything he’s done, but I’ve always found that he’s always in the biggest competitions possible,’ continued Hogg. ‘You look at him and he’s gone to the Rugby World Cup, then went to a Rugby League World Cup, then went to another Rugby World Cup, then did boxing, tried to go to the Olympics, this that and the other.’
Speaking to The Times in the UK, Williams expressed how he dealt with the shock defeat by Eddie Jones’ England, with the All Blacks settling for third place after defeating Wales in the bronze final.
‘I was fine, probably 24 hours after the game, even I reckon about five to 10 minutes after,’ said the devout Muslim.
‘The whistle blew, I turned and straight away in my head I was like, “Thank you to my creator for being here”.
‘I guess some people would look at me and think, “Look at this guy, he doesn’t even care.” In my journey in life, I have been through a lot tougher situations and hurdles than losing a bloody game of football, you know what I mean?’
Williams added that he won’t reflect on the World Cup with regret after the All Blacks failed to add to their three titles, with the Boks instead picking up their third crown in Yokohama.
‘It would have been amazing to win three World Cups but what I hang my hat on is being a man of faith,’ said Williams.
‘Why stress? There are times when I get down and I get anxiety, but then I can go to my happy place. Seeing that picture of my good friend Siya Kolisi holding that cup – how awesome was that picture?’
Photo: Reuters/Russell Cheyne