“He does provide some really strong points of difference which will provide opportunities for them, but also provide opportunities for us” … Wallabies coaching coordinator Tony McGahan.DESPITE the uncertainty over whether Sonny Bill Williams will play in the opening Bledisloe Cup match, the Wallabies are preparing for the dynamic All Blacks midfielder to be running onto ANZ Stadium on Saturday week.
Whether Williams appears in the All Blacks colours depends on talks between the Panasonic club, where he will play in Japan, and the New Zealand Rugby Union.
Wallabies coaching co-ordinator Tony McGahan said when the 30-man Australian squad assembled in Sydney yesterday, he assumed the All Blacks would do everything they could to have him playing, especially after his crucial role in the Chiefs’ first Super Rugby title triumph.
”We just have to wait and see, because they were ruling him out on Sunday. On Monday he was back in, and then today he could be ruled out again,” McGahan said. ”From the All Blacks perspective they are very keen to play him, and they’ll do everything they can to get him out on the field, because he has had a wonderful season.
”He does provide some really strong points of difference which will provide opportunities for them, but also provide opportunities for us.”
McGahan understood if the Panasonic-NZRU negotiations became complicated. ”I have worked in Japan and they can be quite clinical and demanding on what their expectations are.”
McGahan, who joined the Wallabies coaching staff this year, said management had been closely watching recent videos.
”He’s a real focal point of all the back lines he has been involved with, and certainly been a positive influence on the side he has played with this year. We’ve been looking at that, and coming up with a plan to counter it.”
The Williams influence aside, the Wallabies are not expecting any radical changes in the New Zealand approach this season, even if they have a new coach in Steve Hansen. Wallabies head coach Robbie Deans argued the top New Zealand provincial sides played ”a similar brand of football”. ”Obviously the Chiefs have
some special individuals with the likes of Sonny Bill, but beyond that there is a lot of consistency in the way they approach their work. And with Steve now in charge, I don’t think there will be a huge change in style because he has been part of the furniture for a fair while,” Deans said.
Deans is also relieved the Bledisloe Cup has reverted back to a three-Test series for the first time since 2006.
”It’s good to be involved in a series where you get a genuine outcome every year. It has been a long time. There used to be two fixtures a year, and then we went through a long period where there was four. I’d imagine for the general public it is unsatisfying to finish with a one-all or two-all draw, but one side still wins. That doesn’t quite sit right. To play three, with the knowledge that more than likely there will be a clear result, is great.
”And obviously mathematically it makes it a little more achievable as well.”
Deans confirmed that while Quade Cooper is likely to be available for the second Rugby Championship match, after playing club football in Brisbane on the weekend, James O’Connor and Pat McCabe will be missing until at least next month due to injury.
”James is making good progress, but we will not promote him before he is ready, particularly with the potential of him suffering a recurring hamstring injury. We have to make sure we take care of his long term future,” Deans said.
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