Rugby: Sonny Bill named in All Blacks' squad

Sonny Bill Williams. Photo / Getty Images
Sonny Bill Williams. Photo / Getty Images

Rugby league convert Sonny Bill Williams has been named in the All Blacks' end of year tour squad announced at Eden Park today.

The squad, which boasts 972 Test caps between them, is made up of 16
forwards and 14 backs and will again be captained by 89-Test All
Blacks captain Richie McCaw.

Williams has been in dynamic form since making his New Zealand rugby debut this year for Canterbury in the ITM Cup, with his quick offloads and immense strength proving invaluable.

The midfielder started his career as a rugby league player in the NRL competition, and has also played alongside former All Blacks captain, now Counties-Manukau ITM Cup Assistant Coach, Tana Umaga at French rugby
club Toulon from 2008 to 2010.

If Williams gets on the field during the tour he will become a dual international after playing seven games for the Kiwis.

The former Bulldogs star has only been playing rugby for three seasons after joining French side Toulon in 2008.

Auckland flanker Daniel Braid and Hawke's Bay hooker Hika Elliot both return to the All Blacks' squad after long breaks from the team as does Sitiveni Sivivatu who has been injured for a large part of the season.

There was no place for Aaron Cruden or Colin Slade with Stephen Donald being picked as Dan Carter's backup.

The All Blacks play five games on their end of year tour starting with a Bledisloe Cup clash against Australia in Hong Kong in a fortnight.

After the fourth Bledisloe Cup match the All Blacks will attempt to complete their third Grand Slam tour in six years.

All Blacks coach Graham Henry offered his congratulations to all
players selected, especially Williams, as well as Hikawera Elliot and Alby Mathewson, who have appeared for the All Blacks before but are today officially picked for the first time in a squad.

"It's always a magic moment for any New Zealand rugby player when they
are picked for the All Blacks so congratulations to those guys."

Players not considered for selection due to injury include: Israel
Dagg (quadricep), Corey Flynn (calf), Richard Kahui (shoulder), Luke
McAlister (jaw), Piri Weepu (ankle) and Ali Williams (Achilles).

Henry added: "Regarding the make-up of the touring squad, we feel that we have got a very good rugby squad, well lead by some very experienced All Blacks, and we are excited by the challenges that we have ahead of us."

Henry said the key focus for the All Blacks, who are undefeated in
nine Tests this year, would be to further develop their game on the
Tour.

"We are playing top-quality teams on this Tour, starting with
Australia in Hong Kong, and it's important that we make continual
improvements to our game to stay ahead of the opposition," he said.

The All Blacks squad (with province and Test caps in brackets) is:
Forwards:

John Afoa Auckland (25)
Anthony Boric North Harbour (16)
Daniel Braid Auckland (4)
Tom Donnelly Otago (13)
Hikawera Elliot Hawke's Bay (0)
Ben Franks Tasman (7)
Owen Franks Canterbury (17)
Andrew Hore Taranaki (47)
Jerome Kaino Auckland (33)
Richie McCaw (capt) Canterbury (89)
Keven Mealamu Auckland (80)
Liam Messam Waikato (5)
Kieran Read Canterbury (25)
Brad Thorn Canterbury (46)
Samuel Whitelock Canterbury (8)
Tony Woodcock North Harbour (69)

Backs:

Andy Ellis Canterbury (14)
Daniel Carter Canterbury (74)
Jimmy Cowan Southland (41)
Stephen Donald Waikato (19)
Hosea Gear Wellington (2)
Cory Jane Wellington (20)
Alby Mathewson Wellington (1)
Mils Muliaina Waikato (89)
Ma'a Nonu Wellington (52)
Josevata Rokocoko Auckland (66)
Sitiveni Sivivatu Waikato (43)
Conrad Smith Wellington (41)
Isaia Toeava Auckland (26)
Sonny Bill Williams Canterbury *

* new All Black


All Blacks' schedule
30 Oct - All Blacks v Australia, Hong Kong, 9:30 pm
7 Nov - All Blacks v England, London, 3:30 am
14 Nov - All Blacks v Scotland, Edinburgh, 6:15 am
21 Nov - All Blacks v Ireland, Dublin, 6:30 am
28 Nov - All Blacks v Wales, Cardiff, 6:15 am

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