It now appears to be official – Sonny Bill Williams is in a form slump and may not play in the remaining two tests of the year even if he recovers from his shoulder injury.

The midfielder just can't get a break this year and the All Black selectors may decide to give him a rest and allow him to find some form via a good pre-season and Super Rugby season proper with the Blues alongside former All Black Ma'a Nonu.

"He's got a grade one AC shoulder [injury]. He may be [unavailable] for a week, maybe two," coach Steve Hansen confirmed afterwards.

Such was Ryan Crotty's impact when he came on for Williams at Twickenham after 30 minutes, the Crusader is an obvious starter for the test against Ireland in Dublin next weekend. After the scare England provided, it's clear the All Blacks will need their strongest team on the field and the Aviva Stadium should hold good memories for Crotty for it was he who scored the dramatic last-minute try against the Irish to clinch the win in 2013.


The All Blacks will be expected to make several changes for the line-up against Italy in Rome a week later before their welcome summer break.

Williams, 33, has been hampered by wrist, knee and shoulder problems this year. This 16-15 nailbiter at Twickenham was only his fifth test of 2018 and while he is a near certainty to travel to Japan for next year's World Cup, he needs a consistent run of games in order to find his form of old.

He's at his best when he's instinctive but he struggled to get into the test against a highly-motivated England defence and the selectors may now finally decide to reward the better form of others, although that decision could be made for them.

In an interview with the Herald last week, Williams admitted he wasn't where he wanted to be in terms of form but was confident he was heading in the right direction. He also acknowledged he was judged in a harsher way than others, and the critics are likely to be out in force again now.

"With me, I understand there comes a lot more, I guess pressure, as people have a lot more eyes on me because of the person I am and the following that I have," he said.

"I am grateful for that, but at times I know I need to move those distractions to one side and focus on myself doing what I do."

It's clear that Jack Goodhue, 23, is the future at centre, with Anton Lienert-Brown, so good off the reserves bench this year, likely to fill that impact role again next weekend.

Hansen told the assembled media after the test that it was too early to say whether a replacement for Williams would be required should he have to return home, which is likely, although Williams suggested on social media that the injury wasn't as bad as first feared. Ngani Laumape is the obvious candidate to replace him.


"We haven't had time to discuss that. We will see how he [Williams] pulls up in the morning, and have a bit of a chat about it later," Hansen said.

Crotty's communication skills and vision are such that he tends to improve the players around him and certainly that appeared to be the case this morning. Another set of experienced eyes would boost No10 Barrett against the Irish too and won't do Goodhue's confidence any harm in what will be another cauldron as far as atmosphere goes.

It's the No1 team up against the second best team in the world and the men in green might be happy with what they see at Twickenham once they review the game.