Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Read's in, Sonny Bill still in question

Kieran Read is lifted during lineout drills by the All Blacks at Trusts Stadium yesterday. Picture / Getty Images
Kieran Read is lifted during lineout drills by the All Blacks at Trusts Stadium yesterday. Picture / Getty Images

A question mark remains over the availability of Sonny Bill Williams but Kieran Read is considered good to go for the All Blacks' first Rugby Championship match against Australia next week.

Both are looming as key figures for the All Blacks in their first game as world champions against the Wallabies. No 8 Read, considered one of the best loose forwards in the world, has not played since fracturing a rib for the Crusaders in their semifinal loss to the Chiefs on July 27 but should be available for the match in Sydney.

The Williams situation is a little more complicated, although coach Steve Hansen is positive the medical which he underwent yesterday at the behest of his Japanese club Panasonic will result in the all-clear for him to play on Saturday and the return encounter a week later at Eden Park.

The former Chiefs' second-five was a late addition to the All Blacks squad due to Conrad Smith's eye injury. He agreed to play two more matches for New Zealand before jetting off to Japan and then the NRL, but that hinges on a medical examination and a green light from Panasonic.

Williams' warrant of fitness meant he didn't train with the rest of the squad in West Auckland yesterday but Hansen insisted the 27-year-old wasn't injured but merely feeling the effects of a tough year.

"Panasonic just want him to have some medicals today and that's fine, that's par for the course, and he's gone and done that," Hansen said.

"[Team doctor] Deb [Robinson] has taken him to get some tests and once we finalise all that we will get the red light or the green light.

"He's sore, but all those Chiefs' boys are sore ... he's had a big season, he's played about 20 games and played pretty well so it's not surprising."

If Williams was ruled out it would be a blow to Hansen who had personally asked the player to extend his stay and said as recently as Sunday that only paperwork needed completing for him to be available. Ma'a Nonu would play at second-five, with Tamati Ellison or Ben Smith considered for centre, if Williams was ruled out.

"If Sonny doesn't play we've got another fella that's pretty big at 12, a similar type of player, so we're very lucky and blessed in that way."

Hansen's appraisal of Read's progress makes for better news, however. Read, who was to play in the extended training run against the Counties and Auckland ITM Cup teams in Pukekohe last night, was recovering well from his rib injury.

"He's come through training well and he's done quite a bit from a physical point of view over the last 10 days," Hansen said. "He's one of the best No 8s in the world. He understands the game and he's a great reader of the game so he's an important part [of the team]."

Crusaders' lock Luke Romano, who has been carrying a shoulder injury, will also be considered for the Wallabies match next Saturday. None of the Chiefs players was available for the run-out at Pukekohe following their Super Rugby triumph over the Sharks last weekend.

APNZ

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