Sonny Bill Williams is ready to shine at the World Cup in Japan

Sonny Bill Williams
Sonny Bill Williams

Sonny Bill Williams settled in for the calm before the storm, bursting with pride as his family shed tears of joy and relief.

At the end of two years ravaged by injury, New Zealand's talisman centre was fit, healthy - and itching to chase a historic third consecutive World Cup crown.

That Williams actually tuned in to watch Steve Hansen name the All Blacks' World Cup squad, with his family gathered round, underscored just how gruelling his injury woes had become.

Knee surgery threatened the 34-year-old's World Cup participation, and that after wrist, knee and shoulder injuries in the previous season.

Before the All Blacks weigh anchor for Japan and their bid to retain the Webb Ellis Cup they lifted in 2011 and 2015, Williams knew he had to pay reverence to the mental resolve that kept him from giving up the rugby ghost.

The former boxing champion and rugby league star converted to Islam in 2009, and rugby's most famous Muslim continues to credit his faith with increasing maturity and calmness.

A guide to every nation competing at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan
A guide to every nation competing at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan

"When you're praying five times a day and you're trying to pray not just with your limbs but with your heart, it just naturally happens," Williams told New Zealand's Radio Sport.

"You get knocked down but you've just got to get back up. To be honest, it has been really tough and I've had to show a lot of resilience. But I'm just proud. A skilled sailor was never made in smooth waters and I've definitely struggled in that respect over the past few years. I actually watched the naming for the first time, I watched it with my family. There were a few tears from my wife and brother and it really just made it feel real - this thing that you strive for, has paid off. I'm really excited to be here and now there's a job to do and that's to create history."

Asked if he ever considered quitting in the wake of a string of debilitating injury setbacks, Williams added: "To be honest, no. I try to live my life with the glass half-full mentality and that's what my faith gives me. I'm grateful to be able to live my life as a professional sportsman doing what I love. An injury here or there, it ain't no thing in the big scheme of things."

Outright preview of Rugby World Cup
Outright preview of Rugby World Cup

Blues star Williams is New Zealand's oldest World Cup squad member at 34, with Kieran Read continuing as captain in boss Steve Hansen's ranks. Rookie prop Atu Moli has been included ahead of stalwart Owen Franks in the main selection surprise. New Zealand have proved vulnerable across the last four years, drawing the Test series with the British and Irish Lions and twice losing to Ireland.

Even this year Hansen's men drew with South Africa then suffered a record loss to Australia in Perth.

The All Blacks battered Australia in the rematch after that hefty loss however, and remain the team to beat in Japan.

"You'd rather be favourites than not favourites," said head coach Hansen, shaking off any pressure of chasing a third straight title. You're going to see lots of form dips and things that don't seem normal, because it's not a normal year."


More Rugby World Cup content

Like what you've read?
Help your friends Know It All by sharing this article to your social media.

Most Read

Check out the latest daily racing preview1

Tuesday's racing preview

Equiano Springs can follow up a recent Newmarket win in the Optional Claiming Handicap at Newcastle, according to Anita Chambers.

Tiger Woods is among the star attractions at the ZOZO Championship2

ZOZO Championship: Kang-do attitude

Keep stakes to a minimum is the chief advice from Ben Coley as he previews the ZOZO Championship, a brand new addition to the PGA Tour schedule.

Check out Tuesday's Champions League preview and best bets3

Tuesday's Champions League tips

The third matchday of the Champions League group stages takes place this week. George Pitts looks ahead to Tuesday's action.

Check out the day's main market movers and most backed4

Market Movers: Storm brewing

Mid Atlantic Storm is one of Sky Bet's market movers at Kempton Park this evening - get all the latest gambles and Price Boosts right here.

Sporting Life's NAP of the day5

Daily Nap: Win Sufficient

Ben Linfoot is backing a Rod Millman-trained filly coming off a break in a tight little handicap at Newmarket on Wednesday for the Sporting Life Daily Nap.

Most Read

Check out the latest daily racing preview1

Tuesday's racing preview

Equiano Springs can follow up a recent Newmarket win in the Optional Claiming Handicap at Newcastle, according to Anita Chambers.

Tiger Woods is among the star attractions at the ZOZO Championship2

ZOZO Championship: Kang-do attitude

Keep stakes to a minimum is the chief advice from Ben Coley as he previews the ZOZO Championship, a brand new addition to the PGA Tour schedule.

Check out Tuesday's Champions League preview and best bets3

Tuesday's Champions League tips

The third matchday of the Champions League group stages takes place this week. George Pitts looks ahead to Tuesday's action.

Check out the day's main market movers and most backed4

Market Movers: Storm brewing

Mid Atlantic Storm is one of Sky Bet's market movers at Kempton Park this evening - get all the latest gambles and Price Boosts right here.

Sporting Life's NAP of the day5

Daily Nap: Win Sufficient

Ben Linfoot is backing a Rod Millman-trained filly coming off a break in a tight little handicap at Newmarket on Wednesday for the Sporting Life Daily Nap.

Racing Tips

Check out the latest daily racing preview

Tuesday's racing preview

Equiano Springs can follow up a recent Newmarket win in the Optional Claiming Handicap at Newcastle, according to Anita Chambers.

Sporting Life's NAP of the day

Daily Nap: Win Sufficient

Ben Linfoot is backing a Rod Millman-trained filly coming off a break in a tight little handicap at Newmarket on Wednesday for the Sporting Life Daily Nap.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette celebrate a goal for Arsenal in Valencia

Sporting Life Tipping Record

A look at how the Sporting Life recommended bets have performed in October 2019.

Next Race Off

16:02 Vincennes
10
(0)
Deep Impact
J: A Abrivard
12
(0)
Delta Fac
J: F Nivard
5
(0)
Crack D'Ariane
J: F Guerineau

Football Tips

The latest Sporting Life football Accumulator

Sporting Life Accumulator

We have a midweek Sporting Life Accumulator with action in the Sky Bet EFL. A four-fold enhanced to 22/1 with the league sponsors.

Check out Tuesday's Champions League preview and best bets

Tuesday's Champions League tips

The third matchday of the Champions League group stages takes place this week. George Pitts looks ahead to Tuesday's action.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette celebrate a goal for Arsenal in Valencia

Sporting Life Tipping Record

A look at how the Sporting Life recommended bets have performed in October 2019.