WELLINGTON (Reuters) - All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams safely came through training on Tuesday and will line up for the Auckland Blues against the British and Irish Lions on Wednesday.
Williams has been sidelined with a knee injury and Blues coach Tana Umaga bracketed him with TJ Faiane in his team pending the captain’s run at Eden Park for the Lions’ second tour match.
“Sonny has come through really well,” Blues assistant coach Alistair Rogers told local media.
”He came through yesterday pretty good. When he cooled down last night he was feeling really good and he looked very fresh out there this morning.
“We’re pleased he’s in and look forward to seeing him go.”
Williams, twice a World Cup winner with New Zealand, will be just one of a handful of All Blacks in the Blues side and give the Lions backline a thorough test of the defence, not least from his ability to offload the ball from the tackle.
“The key thing for Sonny is he comes with a certain skillset and attributes and we want to see that, as long as it sticks within what we’re trying to achieve and the patterns we’re trying to play,” Rogers added.
“His communication is very good and brings a lot of comfort to those around him.”
A convert to Islam, Williams is fasting during daylight hours for the month of Ramadan but does not think it will hinder his effectiveness.
“Getting through the field-based footy is easy, and I just push back the weights until I break fast,” he told reporters on Monday.
“The first week is the toughest, but after that the body starts to get used to it. I just try and do the best I can.”
Williams’s fitness is good news for All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, who is expected to name the former rugby league international and heavyweight boxing champion in his squad for the Lions series on Thursday.
Hansen is juggling quite a lengthy injury list with Jerome Kaino, Kieran Read, Liam Squire, Ben Smith, Ryan Crotty and Dane Coles all currently sidelined by setbacks of varying degrees of seriousness.
To that group on Tuesday was added first-choice lock Brodie Retallick, who was ruled out of this week’s Super Rugby clash between the Waikato Chiefs and Wellington Hurricanes because of concussion symptoms.
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty