OITA, Japan (Reuters) - All Blacks centre Jack Goodhue remembers vividly the first time that he heard the name Sonny Bill Williams.
His older brother had flattened him in the backyard with a shoulder charge that “was allowed back in league in those days” and let out a triumphant yawp.
“He just yelled ‘Sooonnnyyy Bill’ and I was thinking, ‘what just happened?’ That was the first time I had heard of him,” Goodhue said of his midfield colleague.
Like Williams, Goodhue also attended Mt. Albert Grammar School in Auckland - although he was about 10 years behind the 34-year-old former rugby league international - and followed his exploits on television.
“It was awesome to watch him, and to play with him now,” Goodhue added as the pair bantered back and forth at the team hotel in Beppu and demonstrated a competitive chemistry that should see them combine against Canada in Oita on Wednesday.
“He’s so composed on the field. I always try to run off his shoulder to pick up the plums.”
Should the pairing be confirmed by coach Steve Hansen on Monday for the Pool B clash, it would be the end to a long and frustrating wait for Goodhue to return to the field after he picked up a hamstring injury against Australia on Aug. 10.
He missed much of that record loss in Perth and the subsequent extraction of retribution a week later in Auckland, as well as the final warmup match against Tonga and World Cup opener against South Africa.
“My first World Cup game - of course, this is the peak,” the 24-year-old said when asked if he was itching to play.
“I want to be out there, I want to play. It’s been a while since I played, had a hamstring injury which just seemed to drag out, but I’m confident I can get to the level I want to.”
Goodhue only made his test debut last year against France but such has been his impact and assuredness in the number 13 jersey, many have tipped him for a lengthy All Blacks tenure.
His early career was curtailed by a serious knee injury, and since he stepped up into the All Blacks he has contracted mumps and glandular fever and various other, although less serious, injuries.
Knowing that the injuries will eventually heal and he will get back to his former self, however, had helped him battle his frustrations at not being able to play, Goodhue said.
“It taught me to be patient and also that you can go through hardship and when you come out of it you’re still the same player,” he said.
“Sometimes when you’re out of the game for a couple of months you can doubt yourself. That’s why it’s so important to back yourself.
“Now it’s about taking care of the mental side of things where you haven’t played for a while and you just prepping and getting your mindset right.”
Editing by Sudipto Ganguly