For Sonny Bill Williams, father of two, husband and international rugby player — roles he would possibly place in descending order in terms of importance, life is good but complicated.

So it's a good thing he's organised.

Every Sunday, the Blues and All Blacks midfielder plans his week.

The 32-year-old, who has played 46 tests, has always been known as an athlete who leaves nothing to chance in terms of his preparation, and that extends to his home life.

Time is set aside for his two young daughters and Alana, his wife of five years.


Work takes up the biggest proportion of his day but the balance must be right or things can spiral out of control and that's something which will strike a chord with parents everywhere.

It's the same for his faith. Williams is in the midst of Ramadan, a holy month whereby followers of Islam fast during daylight hours; a tough enough task at the best of times, let alone for an elite sportsman competing with a low body fat percentage.

But he is embracing the challenge of rising at 5am every morning for breakfast and fajr, the first of five prayers for the day.

He won't eat again until the sun sets and after magrib, the penultimate prayer.

He says in the past he has endured Ramadan but is now learning to enjoy it.

At the All Blacks squad announcement, about 12 hours after he played for the Blues in their defeat to the Crusaders at Eden Park, Williams tells the Herald about his methodology and philosophy.

He is always grateful to be named in the All Blacks and that is magnified at this time of year when for him the act of sacrifice is more important than ever.

He says: "I've done Ramadan in the past when I've just tried to get through it and have just wanted to eat and drink — but now it's more about trying to feed the soul and trying to be more grateful for what I have. Today is one of those great days when you see all the hard work pay off.

"Last night was the first game I had this Ramadan. I was a little bit tired but I worked my way into it. With no sacrifice, there's no end result, I guess. I've been around long enough, I have a lot of experience doing it. I know I'll be all right. It will be tough at some stages but it's meant to be. We're lucky — in New Zealand, it's winter. I did it in France one year and it was 18 hours, so that was tough."

After asking after his questioner's family — three children under the age of 12 — Williams asks if the challenges on the home front get easier (they do, up to a point, is the answer) and considers his own.

"As you know, the real game starts when you get home," he says.

"I think the biggest learning curve was when I went from being by myself and concentrating on myself to having a family. It's just another ball game. I've really tried to understand that and put just as much effort as I do my rugby craft into my craft at home; whether that's as a husband or father.

"And that's one of the biggest lessons I've learned from rugby. I've always been methodical from an individual point of view; 'get this done, get this done', to play on Saturday. Then that Saturday changes to next week, so it's an ever-changing finish line.

"And now you add family to the mix and that's definitely a never-ending finish line — I usually start my preparation on a Sunday and prep for the week and for what I have to do; not just as a rugby player but as a parent as well. And then on top of that, you have to make time for the wahine to keep her happy, too."

Maturity and family tend to help put things into perspective and that's where Williams appears to be at right now. But there is no doubting either the importance of rugby, and in particular the All Blacks, to him.

He is a man who famously signs only short-term contracts — a philosophy that also applied during his league days — but he is entering the autumn of his football career and next year's World Cup is clearly a priority.

Williams' contract with New Zealand Rugby finishes after what is likely to be a unique tournament in Japan where the All Blacks and Williams will attempt to win it a third time in a row.

"That's the big goal, bro. The big goal is to be a part of that 2019 World Cup squad ... I'd be lying if I said that wasn't the case.

"I understand the work needs to be done on a daily basis to have a chance of getting there and worry will creep in if I'm thinking about that. I have to try to stay in the present and keep doing what I'm doing and not just as a rugby player, but as a person, a man, a father and a husband."

As a player and perhaps against the odds given his age, Williams keeps developing.

He has always been known as a player with Inspector Gadget-type arms who can unlock defences with his offloading game, but his kicking has improved significantly, and last year, his defence went to a new level in terms of accuracy and power.

He has become a leader in the All Black backline.

"It comes with the territory. You acquire the leadership role through experiences and I've had a lot of those; some really good ones and some bad. But all of that has moulded me into the person I am today."

There will be high expectations on Williams and midfield partner Ryan Crotty at the All Blacks this year. It is an area of high competition and men such as the highly-rated Jack Goodhue are poised to make the most of their opportunities.

Williams has become a leader in the All Blacks backline and his midfield partnership with Ryan Crotty is crucial. Photo / Getty
Williams has become a leader in the All Blacks backline and his midfield partnership with Ryan Crotty is crucial. Photo / Getty

Williams expresses concern for the concussion suffered by Crotty, a man familiar to Williams since his time at Canterbury and the Crusaders and another hard worker he rates as world class.

"On top of that, [fellow midfielders] Ngani [Laumape], Jack and Anton [Lienert-Brown] are world class players, too. Jack is just waiting for his chance. It keeps everyone on their toes and working hard.

"We know that whoever gets that shot, come game time, it's a reflection of how we prepare. That's the message I try to drum into the midfield squad and I know they drive the same sorts of messages.

"We all want to be there, we all want to start, we all want to be competitive and have a go at each other at training. Whoever gets out there represents us as well."