Sonny Bill Williams will spearhead what should be a commanding win for the All Blacks over Namibia at London's Olympic Stadium on Thursday, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
One might need to be a little wary of making bold predictions after Japan’s shock win over the Springboks, but that was the sort of crazy result that we are unlikely to see for a long time.
Despite the fact the All Blacks have made a grand total of 12 changes to the starting lineup for their second game of the World Cup on Thursday, they still boast a fearsome squad, and Namibia should simply stand no chance.
The second tier team are ranked 20th in the world and will be going up against the defending champions and strong tournament favourites.
In making a host of changes to his team after a short turnaround from the Argentina encounter, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said it was now an opportunity for other players to ‘step up’.
One of the players who already stepped up in the opening encounter was none other than the mercurial Williams, who made a massive impact after coming off the bench against Argentina. Williams’s off-loading ability and infectious energy sparked the All Blacks into life as he proved the value of having quality impact players among the reserves.
The dynamic midfielder will now get an opportunity to start alongside powerful Malakai Fekitoa, and they could well have a field day against a Namibian side that is going to battle to keep pace with the high-tempo All Blacks.
WILLIAMS’S STATS THAT MATTER
34 – Number of minutes played against Argentina at Wembley as a substitute
51 – Metres made
6 – Carries over gainline
4 – Offloads
2 – Clean breaks
All Blacks – 15 Colin Slade, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Sam Cane (c), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Ben Franks.
Subs: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Tony Woodcock, 19 Kieran Read, 20 Richie McCaw, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Ma'a Nonu, 23 Ben Smith.
HEAD TO HEAD
This is the teams' first meeting in Test rugby
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Mathieu Raynal (France)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)
Photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images