New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams, center, is tackled by
Scotland's Kelly Brown, right, and Richie Vernon, left,
during the international rugby match at Murrayfield,
Edinburgh,. Photo by AP.
Graham Henry and his coaching cohorts now share a dilemma
with their counterparts for the remainder of the All Blacks
Grand Slam rugby tour - devising a strategy to handle Sonny
Those three names - and the phrase "offload" - were
practically on everyone's lips in the aftermath of New
Zealand's 49-3 swamping of the Scots at Murrayfield last
night, an All Black master class that suggested Williams
could eventually exert a Jonah Lomu-esque influence on the
Just two games into his test career, the 25-year-old already
has opposing coaches reaching for the superlatives when
pondering his future impact on the code.
After witnessing man-of-the-match Williams orchestrate two of
the All Blacks seven converted with audacious offloads that
already seem routine, Scotland head coach Andy Robinson
sounded in awe of the new midfield maestro.
"He's got everything, hasn't he? He's fantastic for the sport
of rugby union, just not for a defensive coach or an opponent
trying to mark him," Robinson said.
Williams made his test debut at Twickenham last weekend and
soon made a favourable impression for a one-handed release in
the build-up to Hosea Gear's maiden test try.
Nine minutes into what Scotland forlornly hoped would prove a
continuation of their resurgence after a historic series win
in Argentina five months ago, Gear was grateful to Williams
again when he powered through the defensive line and flicked
a no-look pass the wing was wise to anticipate.
Record-equalling fullback Mils Muliaina also profited from
Williams' sleight of hand in the 48th minute.
Williams' other sly moves to keep the ball alive did not lead
directly to tries, conventional passing assisted Gear's
second while his running lines from second five-eighth
frequently had the Scots standoffish in defence.
Scotland, and to a lesser extent England, had no answer to
Williams's innate ability to pierce an opposing backline and,
when halted, release the ball for an alert support player.
The question now for Henry and backs coach Wayne Smith is how
to utilise Williams against Ireland and Wales.
Do they prolong his assimilation process in Dublin next
weekend? Or do they revert to the Ma'a Nonu-Conrad Smith
combination that would have been considered unbreakable until
Williams signalled his World Cup ambitions by returning home
from France in June.
Nonu and Smith, united for 26 tests since 2008, have been
pivotal in nurturing Williams since his selection and in
doing so appear to have inadvertently jeopardised their own
Smith sat out the England test to indulge Williams' rare
outing at centre; at Murrayfield Nonu was the only All Blacks
reserve not needed as Scotland's demoralising 105-year wait
to beat New Zealand featured another grim interlude.
Henry was noncommittal about his future plans for the All
Blacks highest profile acquisition from rugby league but
mirrored Robinson's enthusiasm for Williams' performance.
"He'll obviously be pretty pleased with the way he's
playing," Henry dead panned.
"He's got an amazing ability to offload the ball in the
tackle, I don't think I've seen any rugby player with that
sort of skill in that situation before," he said, before
predicting even greater heights for the 1.91-metre ball
"He's still getting comfortable playing at this level and
with what we're trying to do.
"I still think there's a wee way to go there but I think
he'll get more confident and even go to a higher standard in
Captain Richie McCaw was also impressed with Williams'
arrival to the All Black environment via Toulon and
"It's exciting to have a guy like that, he's a real threat
and it's not always him just crashing the ball up, he can put
guys away outside too."
Muliaina admitted Williams was unique in terms of backs he
had shared his 92 test caps with - an All Black record he
jointly holds with McCaw and Sean Fitzpatrick.
"Just watching it (offloads) on TV when he doing it in
league, you wondered if he could transfer that into rugby,"
"He must have practised it a lot because he can certainly
pull it off. A few times at training you think he's gone to
deck and suddenly the ball pops out of nowhere."