Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Rio Olympics 2016: Break for SBW could do him good - Hansen

Sonny Bill Williams will have surgery on his ruptured Achilles once he returns from Rio and is unlikely to play again until he turns out for his new franchise the Blues in next year's Super Rugby competition.

And while the break is likely to frustrate the All Black midfielder, who has seen his hopes of playing in this month's Rugby Championship and November tour of the USA and Europe dashed, it might do him good in the long term, coach Steve Hansen said.

"It's disappointing," said Hansen today after announcing that Chiefs midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown would replace Williams in the squad which is preparing for the test against Australia in Sydney a week on Saturday. "He's a world class player and he plays in a position where we've already lost two players [Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith] overseas, so it's not great for the planning. But it is what it is... it's a tough game. I think we ended up losing four players, didn't we, in the sevens team?

"From our point of view we had to expect that something would happen and it has."

Hansen, who said that Lienert-Brown, already in the squad as injury cover, would join it fulltime because of his ability to play second-five, reckons Williams will be out for up to nine months. In his absence, Ryan Crotty, Malakai Fekitoa and George Moala will be the midfield options, with Charlie Ngatai back in the mix once he is fit following a long time out with concussion.

"If you look at the positive side for Sonny - it gives him six or seven months where his body gets a break and he probably hasn't had that for a long time because he's such a good athlete right across the field, he does so many different things. So eight or nine months out probably won't hurt him. It might frustrate him, but it won't hurt him."

The preparation for the first Rugby Championship test, which doubles as a Bledisloe Cup match, will ramp up for the All Blacks tomorrow when they play a trial game in Pukekohe.

Wing Julian Savea is likely to play due to his lack of recent game time at the Hurricanes, but few of his franchise teammates will take part, Hansen said.

Hooker Dane Coles certainly won't following his efforts in playing the final against the Lions with a sore rib cartilage. "He probably came back a little early, but there was a final to be won," Hansen said. "He's done that now he's just got to get himself right."

Hansen added that flanker Sam Cane's recovery from concussion was continuing well and he was back training.

For Hansen, the return to ANZ Stadium means a chance to avenge a rare loss during his time as head coach. The Wallabies won the encounter 27-19 12 months ago, only the third time Hansen has tasted defeat after taking over from Graham Henry in 2012, and the All Blacks have changed their travel schedule in a bid to find an advantage.

Rather than travel to Sydney late in the week, the All Blacks will travel on Sunday.

"Half the crew have been battling for us to go early for quite some time, and the other half have been battling not to, so we've decided to go early this time to see if it makes any difference," Hansen said. "It's all about learning as we go so we'll take the opportunity to try something different."

- NZ Herald

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