Highlanders Rob Thompson looking to make his mark after Malakai Fekitoa 'left huge boots to fill'

Highlanders centre Rob Thompson admits he has a task on his hand, replacing former All Blacks star Malakai Fekitoa this Super Rugby season.

Fekitoa, 25, left the Highlander and New Zealand Rugby for French side Toulon last year, with Thompson so far establishing himself as the bruising centre's replacement.

"Mala (Fekitoa) left huge boots to fill," Thompson said.

"The man is a freakish trainer. He worked tirelessly that guy, just inspirational."

Thompson says that he learned from Fekitoa's example, with the pair having spent two seasons together at the Highlanders.

"I watched him closely, he's a good man Malakai."

"I learned a lot over the two years I was with him, he's a good friend of mine."

Rob Thompson has started the season in Malakai Fekitoa's old jersey. Source: 1 NEWS



All Blacks great Sir Bryan Williams inducted into World Rugby Hall of Fame

All Blacks legend Sir Bryan Williams has been inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame overnight (NZ time), in ceremony held in England.

Sir Bryan was joined by former Irish international and Crusaders assistant coach Ronan O'Gara, former French flyhalf Pierre Villepruex and former Welsh women's player Liza Burgess to be inducted in the Hall of Fame.

The 67-year-old Williams joins the likes of former All Blacks of Jonah Lomu, Sir Colin Meads and New Zealand women's legend Farah Palmer who have received the prestigious honour.

He is the 22nd New Zealander to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Upon receiving the accolade Sir Bryan said he was proud to be named amongst greats of the game.

"It is a great honour to be inducted to the World Rugby Hall of Fame,"he said.

"I remember my first game in 1961 was a curtain-raiser before an All Blacks game, they were all my heroes and they inspired me.

"Nine years later, I was playing my first Test for them. I loved my time in rugby and I'm lucky to say that rugby has loved me back."

Sir Bryan made his debut for the All Blacks against South Africa in 1970 and played 113 matches for New Zealand and played 38 Tests.


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SBW, Ryan Crotty among host of All Blacks stars returning to face the Springboks

Strike weapons Beauden Barrett and Rieko Ioane are back in an All Blacks team looking to wrap up the Rugby Championship when they face South Africa in Wellington on Saturday.

Coach Steve Hansen has made nine personnel changes and a positional switch to his experimental starting team that saw off Argentina 46-24 in Nelson.

A fourth bonus point win from four matches would guarantee a third straight Rugby Championship crown for the world champions with two rounds of matches still to play.

Few would bet against it given the Springboks are coming off successive losses on the road and haven't won in New Zealand for nine years.

It hasn't stopped Hansen naming close to his strongest available team.

Barrett returns at five-eighth in place of Richie Mo'unga, in a first appearance since his four-try, 30-point haul against Australia at Eden Park.

One more Barrett try would give him 24 in the No.10 jersey, matching the world record set by his All Blacks predecessor Dan Carter.

Tryscoring specialist Ioane returns to the left wing, having recovered from a hamstring problem.

Six backline positions have new faces with Ben Smith the only player retained, although he moves to the right wing, with Jordie Barrett restored at fullback.

The halves and centres are both overhauled. Aaron Smith is halfback and Anton Lienert-Brown the outside centre while inside centre Ryan Crotty returns from a month on the sideline following a concussion early in the opening Bledisloe Cup Test in Sydney.

There is a place on the bench for Sonny Bill Williams, whose recuperation from a shoulder injury stretches back nearly three months.

Up front is more settled.

First-choice flankers Sam Cane and Liam Squire are recalled while Luke Whitelock replaces fellow lock veteran Brodie Retallick, who is injured.

Barrett carried the bottles for the team against the Pumas and said he learned from the experience. Source: 1 NEWS

The other lock is Scott Barrett, who will start alongside brothers Jordie and Beauden.

Whitelock's return means three centurions are in a battle-hardened pack, alongside Owen Franks and captain Kieran Read.

Forwards Patrick Tuipulotu and Liam Coltman have won rare selections, both on the bench.

ALL BLACKS: Jordie Barrett, Ben Smith, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ryan Crotty, Rieko Ioane, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read (capt), Sam Cane, Liam Squire, Scott Barrett, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Karl Tu'inukuafe. Res: Liam Coltman, Tim Perry, Ofa Tuungafasi, Patrick Tuipulotu, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Sonny Bill Williams, Damian McKenzie.

Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty during the warm-up.
New Zealand All Blacks v Australian Wallabies. Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship test match. Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand. Saturday 25 August 2018. © Copyright photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.Photosport.nz
All Blacks midfielders Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty during the warm-up. Source: Photosport


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