Sonny Bill Williams says his body is coming right for test football, and he's heaped praise on the man who has taken his All Black jersey.

The All Blacks now appear to have four second five-eighths candidates, after Anton Lienert-Brown was paired with Jack Goodhue for Bledisloe I on Saturday night.

It will be a rare start in the inside centre position for the versatile Lienert-Brown, adding more intrigue for the World Cup selections.

SBW, Lienert-Brown, Perth reserve Ngani Laumape and Ryan Crotty are all comfortable at No 12.


Williams, coming back from longstanding injury issues, said: "It's a great midfield combo. Anton has shown his work this year, played some really good footy. I'm a big fan of Alby and we're good mates off the field and I wish him all the best."

Last week, Williams hit back at his critics who claimed he was under pressure to make the World Cup squad – seeming to reference a story that appeared on the Herald.

"And for those that say I'm under pressure playing a game that I enjoy. Get your priorities right," he wrote on Twitter.

"Look at what's going on in the world. Starving children, the single mother raising 3 kids, the atrocities refugees are facing around the world, racism.

"This is what I call pressure."

Sonny Bill Williams mobbed by fans while playing for Counties Manukau. Photo / Bay of Plenty Times/Andrew Warner
Sonny Bill Williams mobbed by fans while playing for Counties Manukau. Photo / Bay of Plenty Times/Andrew Warner

Williams lines up for Counties Manukau against Taranaki at Pukekohe on Saturday evening, having been sent to the Mitre 10 Cup by the All Black coaches so he could get 80 minute hit outs. He played in a warm-up match for the Steelers last week.

"The body is good, really good," he said. "After the South African game I was pretty beat up. I was sore last week but a different type of sore. I could tell the body is getting used to it.

"I'm feeling pretty good. I'm not the coach, not the selectors, not the public, I'm just me. All I've got to be is where my feet are and play the way I know I can play.


"Last week was definitely a step in the right direction and I'm enjoying playing with these lads. I haven't spoken to selectors – they are busy doing their thing, with a big test coming up."

Williams said there was a "cool buzz" around the Counties Manukau team.

"The goal is to win and hopefully we can get an 8000 strong crowd at Pukekohe," he said.

"I've been stepping back observing and still learning but also if there are a few things I can add from my experience I can chuck my hat in here.

"I just want to have fun. I love playing rugby and I'm blessed to do this. I want to play well, be successful with the boys and enjoy it."