From recovery mode to holiday mode to being brought into the All Blacks camp and potentially starting against the French on Saturday – it's been an ever-changing three weeks for Sonny Bill Williams who is backing his proven ability to deliver on the big stage in Dunedin should he get the chance.

Williams' physical attributes are the most obviously striking but the midfielder's mental strength cannot be underestimated, either.

It is a quality which has helped him through an often tumultuous league and rugby career and it is what has got him to this point this week after a surprisingly quick recuperation from knee surgery.

It was the 32-year-old who brought up his performance last time out here in the deep south when he dropped three passes in the opening few minutes against Australia in that dramatic Bledisloe Cup test last August, won in the final few minutes by the All Blacks, but the father of two girls has become very good at putting things in perspective and leaving the negatives behind.


If he does start in the No12 jersey only four weeks after an operation on his right knee, Williams will no doubt find the pace and intensity under the roof extremely challenging, but provided he sticks to what he's good at – running hard and straight and defending with power and intelligence – the All Blacks are likely to be in excellent hands.

All Blacks midfield back Sonny Bill Williams interviewed at the team hotel in Dunedin. In preparation for the 3rd Test match between the All Blacks and France. Photo / Brett Phibbs.
All Blacks midfield back Sonny Bill Williams interviewed at the team hotel in Dunedin. In preparation for the 3rd Test match between the All Blacks and France. Photo / Brett Phibbs.

"Those types of things are what I am going to have to deal with if I do get selected,"
Williams said of his lack of recent game time. "But what's the worst that can happen? Probably last year's Bledisloe is the worst thing that can happen after I dropped the first three balls. But I'm still here and still smiling and still keen to give it a go.

"I'm just keen to get out there and if I do and that's starting or off the bench or whatever, I'm going to have a crack, bro."

Williams, apparently more laid back now than at any other time in his professional career, knows he can't be in control of everything, and whether that's the result of his increasing maturity, being a married dad of two, the support network within the All Blacks, or a combination thereof, it all adds up to a sensible approach off the field and a ruthless one on it.

"I used to be really methodical on how I prepared to play a game," he said. "I've gone through games having absolute shockers after I've ticked every single box beforehand.

"Obviously I'm not 100 per cent physically because I haven't played for a while but I back myself through, I guess, my knowledge of the game and the way I have prepared and my mental state – how I cope with that.

"It's good to have those emotions… no one likes that feeling of the unknown and almost being scared sometimes but once you sit with it and you embrace it you can move forward and put into action what you want to do."

To laughs from the gathered media, he added: "Sorry about that… that was a bit deep."

Williams has surprised himself with his recovery, but after informing wife Alana that he wouldn't be available for a planned family trip away he has thrown himself wholeheartedly into getting into the right shape for his first test of the year and 47th in total.

"I was in holiday mode… I rang my wife and she was a little bit upset because we had planned things to do but I'm back in there."

And he's enjoying every minute by the look of things. France beware.