Former All Blacks captain still cherishing Lions mascot from 1977 Tour

Tane Norton captained the All Blacks to a series win over the Lions 40 years ago – and he has an official bit of memorabilia to prove it. Source: 1 NEWS

Sonny Bill Williams in doubt for Saturday's All Blacks-Test with Springboks

The All Blacks' policy around not training is under the microscope after Sonny Bill Williams went down with illness ahead of their Test against the Springboks.

New Zealand are desperate to get first-choice inside centre Williams on the park in what has been a season dogged by injury.

He looked set to return for Saturday's Rugby Championship Test in Wellington after scans showed he had overcome a 10-week shoulder injury.

However, he missed yesterday's practice session with an ailment and is in doubt to be included in what should be close to New Zealand's strongest team for their final home Test of the year.

The All Blacks have previously said their strong preference is for players to train all week if they are to be considered for match duty.

Williams' last game was the third Test against France on June 23 - his only international appearance of 2018.

The 33-year-old's availability this week would be timely as Ngani Laumape is ruled out with knee damage suffered in Saturday's 46-24 win over Argentina in Nelson.

The All Blacks want to restore their preferred midfield combination of Williams and Ryan Crotty, who has been out for a month following a head knock.

Star winger Rieko Ioane's hamstring is healed and is likely to return, along with match-winning five-eighth Beauden Barrett.

Sam Cane and Liam Squire should be restored as flankers despite some muscular efforts from fringe candidates Ardie Savea and Shannon Frizell against the Pumas.

The tight five may be the only area below full strength for the world champions.

Lock Brodie Retallick (shoulder) and prop Joe Moody (thumb) are poised to miss the rest of the Rugby Championship.

World class hooker Dane Coles is near the end of a nine-month recovery from a knee injury.

Assistant coach Ian Foster said Coles is targeting a provincial return this month and could yet figure in the final Rugby Championship Test against South Africa in Pretoria on October 7.

"Every week he's getting closer and closer," Foster said.

"It's exciting and he's starting to believe that too I think. He's got that glint in his eye."

All Blacks' Sonny Bill Williams during an All Blacks training session ahead of the third and final All Blacks v France test match at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand. 21 June 2018. Copyright Image: Derek Morrison /
Sonny Bill Williams. Source: Photosport


Former All Blacks star Lima Sopoaga warns NZ rugby of lucrative overseas deals outweighing pull of black jersey

Former All Blacks first-five Lima Sopoaga has warned New Zealand rugby that the lure of offshore deals is starting to rival the honours of wearing the black jersey.

Sopoaga played 16 Tests for the All Blacks and is now plying his trade in the English Premiership after signing a lucrative two-year deal with the Wasps team based in Coventry.

The 26-year-old says NZ Rugby's policy of not selecting Kiwi players playing overseas, may not be enough to keep talent in New Zealand, with money luring more and more Kiwi rugby players abroad.

"Things are starting to change and players are starting to wise up," Sopoaga told The Guardian.

"They realise that it's a business these days. A lot of us are starting to talk to each other more and talk about experiences and about how we can benefit from the game because it is a business and it can be pretty cut-throat at times.

"For a lot of guys like myself, who come from big families, from low socio-economic backgrounds the chance to change your family's life is pretty overwhelming.

"It's not something you should take lightly and sometimes the jersey is not enough for a better life.

Lima Sopoaga celebrates against South Africa
Lima Sopoaga celebrates against South Africa Source: Photosport

"It is special, the experiences you have are pretty surreal, but down the track those things don't pay for a roof over your head."

Sopoaga is one of many recent New Zealand players to leave early in their rugby careers for big time offers abroad in Europe and the UK.

Former All Blacks Charles Piutau, Malakai Fekitoa, Aaron Cruden, Steven Luatua and Julian Savea left New Zealand while still in their 20s and and still eligible for All Blacks selection.

Sopoaga says the pull of lucrative overseas deals is just too good to pass up.

"You can easily see why the riches of Europe for young guys appeal – rugby doesn't last forever and younger guys are becoming more aware of that," he said.

"I think that's a good thing. For me having my daughter changed things, how I looked at rugby, how I looked at my life. Rugby isn't forever. It can all be taken away from you."

The former Highlanders No.10 found himself in a tight spot, with Beauden Barrett cementing the starting jersey for the All Blacks and Damian McKenzie and Richie Mo'unga air-marked as covers.

Sopoaga chose to take up a lucrative two-year lucrative deal with the Wasps, even with the Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan around the corner.

COVENTRY, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 08:  Lima Sopoaga of Wasps offloads the ball during a Premiership Rugby match between Wasps and Exeter Chiefs at Ricoh Arena on September 8, 2018 in Coventry, United Kingdom.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Lima Sopoaga of Wasps offloads the ball during a Premiership Rugby match between Wasps and Exeter Chiefs at Ricoh Arena in Coventry, United Kingdom. Source: Getty



Liam Squire admits he’s fired up to face physical 'Boks – 'You go to a dark place'

Liam Squire isn't afraid to tap into something a bit more sinister for this weekend's Rugby Championship Test against the Springboks.

Squire was asked by media if the match in Wellington is one he plans to get extra competitive for considering the physicality the South Africans are renowned for bringing.

Squire said his approach wasn't so clear cut.

"You know it's going to hurt - they're a physical team," he said.

"You've got to be up for that challenge and you do go to that dark place when you play against the South Africans.

"As a forward pack, we're looking forward to that."

The All Blacks enter Saturday's match undefeated in 2018 while the Springboks are still recovering from back-to-back away losses to Argentina and the Wallabies.

The All Blacks loosie says the forwards are looking forward to a big contest in Wellington. Source: 1 NEWS


Wallabies great Stephen Larkham demanding more tries from current players

Stephen Larkham reckons new playmaking combination Kurtley Beale and Matt Toomua did a fantastic job putting the Wallabies in a position to score last weekend.

It's now on everyone else to finish their work and make sure the ball goes over the line.

Australia are in the midst of one of their worst seasons in decades when it comes to attack, with an average of just 17.2 points per game across their six Test matches so far in 2018.

That's markedly down on last year's average of 31.1.

But Wallabies attack coach Larkham believes they are on the right track with Beale and Toomua running the show at five-eighth and inside centre, a new-look pairing that will get another run together in Saturday's Rugby Championship Test against Argentina.

They had a tentative start in Saturday's 23-18 win over South Africa in difficult, slippery conditions.

"We didn't score as many tries as we would have liked to," Larkham said on Tuesday.

"We got into their 22 a number of times, but probably a lack of patience in that area (cost us) maybe three or four times.

"If I look at the playmaking roles in the team, I think they did a fantastic job of getting us into the 22 and then I think as a whole team we can do a better job (of finishing)."

The Wallabies look set for a big boost in that regard with Israel Folau, one of the world's most potent try-scoring threats, in line to return from injury alongside David Pocock.

Folau (ankle) and Pocock (neck) were both late scratchings from the Springboks clash but were due to partake in contact work at training on Tuesday afternoon, putting them on course to feature against Los Pumas at Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast.

Larkham said a firm decision on them both would be made later in the week.

For his part, Dane Haylett-Petty anticipates Folau will play - meaning a shift from fullback to wing to accommodate him.

"I'm expecting he'll play," Haylett-Petty said.

"It'll be great to have Izzy back, one of the world's best players.

"We know where Izzy's good - he's a great finisher, he can make something out of nothing, he's amazing in the air."

There is no word yet on second-rower Adam Coleman, who was also named to play against South Africa but flew out on match day to be with his pregnant wife Tonia in Melbourne.

The couple has since celebrated the birth of a baby girl.

The Wallabies celebrate after the try of Michael Hooper, New Zealand All Blacks v Australia, Rugby Championship test match, Forsyth Barr stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand. 26 August 2017. Copyright Image: Joe Allison /
The Wallabies celebrate after the try of Michael Hooper against the All Blacks at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin. Source: Photosport