Sonny Bill Williams injury affects All Blacks and Auckland Blues in different ways
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - MAY 19: Sonny Bill Williams of the Blues makes a break during the round 14 Super Rugby match between the Blues and the Crusaders at Eden Park on May 19, 2018 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Only this week, it was revealed that an Sonny Bill Williams injury will remove the player for up to a month of rugby. It has affected the All Blacks and the Auckland Blues in different ways – with opportunities for others in the national team, while it might have cost the Blues all hope of reaching their objectives

And after the recent result at Eden Park, the unfortunate truth forced on the Blues franchise due to Williams’ injury, has only made the Blues v Rebels match outcome a cruel reality.

Sonny Bill Williams injury affects All Blacks and Auckland Blues in different ways

When announced, the fact that Sonny Bill Williams aggravated his knee cartilage injury after training with the All Blacks, only made for an surreal event for Tana Umaga. The head coach would have never imagined this scenario; especially when Williams had been adding so much to his sides performances – losing ones still – but he was looking to be a key figure in the plans for the troubled Blues outfit.

What the fans might ask is “how did this injury occur?” and a few might feel aggrieved by the timing of it. Yet, All Blacks fans can also question the timing. Only a week out from the start of the first test, the how, what and who will need to be answered.

Not that the how and what is unclear. The injury might have been aggravated by the All Blacks training, or reinforced from Blues match play. The ‘what’ is his knee injury, that Blues medical staff expect that Williams will be unable to train for around four weeks. So the next obvious question becomes who will replace Sonny Bill Williams?

The Blues had the more limited options, with unknown Terrence Hepetema attempting to fill the huge void. Even if his and team mate Orbyn Leger’s combination was new, they had less time to prepare and the pressure appears to have told. In difficult circumstances, in an almost irreplaceable position, one was never going to fill the boots of Sonny Bill Williams.

As such [and with respect], the important fixture against the Melbourne Rebels was lost 10-20 overnight, in a less than appealing performance.

All Blacks selectors must now replace Sonny Bill Williams

Any candidate to replace Sonny Bill will likely be of a higher calibre, in the All Blacks establishment. In that assembled camp, the options are wider and more adaptable. They range from Ryan Crotty, to Jack Goodhew, Anton Lienert-Brown and Ngani Laumape.

All good options, but still…..the 32 year old is by all evidence, the consummate second-five. With his free ranging ability to offload in the tackle, he also offers defence and attacking prowess. Skills of an International calibre, no matter the league or hemisphere. Included in an All Blacks environment, it always brought out the best in the dual-International.

No more, for at least the French Test series that is. Now, a call for others to ‘turn up’. But unlike the Blues, many many more options exist within the national team. A week to prepare and react, the natural call maybe for Lienert-Brown (below), who has played with Crotty before, to be used.

Hard to predict than the Blues selection, as the All Black selectors are looking for more than a single game correction. Unlike the Blues, that AB group need to know that for all three matches, any replacement is up to the task, is genuine, and is long term.

Unfortunate for Sonny Bill Williams, who is the unlucky victim of injury. A shame too, as he was looking to regain the mantle as the most challenging second-five in World Rugby, to defend against. And his challenge with players like Mathieu Bastereaud of France, was looking to be a delectable encounter this June.

But in his place, another player will stand-up. So watch this space for the successful applicants name to be read out Thursday – ahead of the first Test, beginning on June 2.

“Main photo credit”
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