League: Williams back for Kiwis' match against PNG

By Michael Brown in Leeds

Sonny Bill Williams of New Zealand. Photo / Getty Images
Sonny Bill Williams of New Zealand. Photo / Getty Images

Sonny Bill Williams is back in the Kiwis' second row as they look to wrap up World Cup pool play with a comprehensive win against Papua New Guinea on Saturday.

Williams suffered a few bumps and bruises against Samoa last week, especially to his pride when he slipped over the dead-ball line while making a solo run for a try.

Coach Stephen Kearney said the match against PNG was another chance to work on combinations.

"Particularly with the backs and edge forwards [Alex Glenn and Williams], it was a matter of getting consistency of who guys are playing alongside now ... That was the idea behind having the likes of Dean Whare and Manu Vatuvei back in there."

Missing from the line-up are heavy hitters Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Frank Pritchard and Simon Mannering. Pritchard is recovering from a corked thigh and a sore ankle. He could have played if it was a knockout scenario, but Kearney decided rest was the better option.

"With the forwards, with Jesse Bromwich and Sam Moa not playing last week, it was an opportunity to give them a game," Kearney said. "And we're giving guys like Simon Mannering and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves a rest. Right across the whole group, the pressure to perform is there because guys like Jason Nightingale, Kevin Locke and Krisnan Inu are waiting for an opportunity."

Perhaps the feature of the side is another opportunity given to Rabbitohs back Bryson Goodwin, who looked out of sorts in the Kiwis' opener against Samoa.

"I thought the first game for Bryson was a bit of a feeler and him getting used to the system and how we want to defend. As a group, we improved our defence against France, and Bryson defended a lot better in that game," Kearney said. "Giving him the opportunity ... this match, I think that'll help him to build that confidence."

Josh Hoffman will be in the No1 jersey and his management reiterated yesterday that was where he expected to play for the Brisbane Broncos next year, despite the recruitment of Bulldog custodian Ben Barba.

Hoffman's manager, Paul Hogan, told reporters his client was unhappy after Barba's recruitment and a subsequent claim from Brisbane teammate Justin Hodges that Hoffman was "not the right guy" for fullback.

Hogan hinted that Hoffman - contracted until the end of 2015 at Brisbane - would weigh up his options upon his World Cup return after receiving other NRL offers.

But coach Anthony Griffin said nothing would change his "team first" approach to picking sides week in, week out next year - and he expected Hoffman to buy into that until at least his contract expires.

New Zealand have notched comfortable pool wins against Samoa and France, while PNG suffered a narrow defeat against France before crumbling 38-4 against Samoa on Tuesday (NZT).

Kiwis line-up
1 Josh Hoffman
2 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
3 Dean Whare
4 Bryson Goodwin
5 Manu Vatuvei
6 Kieran Foran
7 Shaun Johnson
8 Ben Matulino
9 Issac Luke
10 Jesse Bromwich
11 Alex Glenn
12 Sonny Bill Williams
13 Elijah Taylor

Interchange:
14 Sam Moa
15 Sam Kasiano
16 Frank-Paul Nu'uausala
17 Greg Eastwood
18 Jason Nightingale
19 Simon Mannering

- NZ Herald

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