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 / www.photosport.nz
Sonny Bill Williams. Source: Photosport


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Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup tickets to go on sale, All Blacks fans urged to get in quick

All Blacks fans are urged to get in quick if they are to secure seats at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, with officials warning tickets will sell out fast one year out from the tournament.

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw holds aloft the William Webb Ellis Cup after winning Rugby World Cup Final. New Zealand All Blacks v Australia Wallabies, Twickenham Stadium, London, England. Saturday 31 October 2015. Copyright Photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.Photosport.nz
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw holds aloft the William Webb Ellis Cup after winning Rugby World Cup Final. Source: Photosport

Half a million tickets have already been pre-sold with tickets set to be open for sale to the public at 1pm today (NZ time).

Head of the Rugby World Cup Alan Gilpin believes there will be an "unprecedented demand" for tickets which involves the home team, Japan's Brave Blossoms and the top tier nations.

"All the matches involving Japan, definitely all the matches involving New Zealand... England, Australia are experiencing high demand and we would expect they will be sold out very quickly," said Gilpin.

The All Blacks begin their title defence against the Springboks in Yokohama, the evening after the tournament opener between Japan and Russia in Tokyo on September 20, 2019.

Adult ticket prices are expected to range from ¥10,000 - ¥40,000 (NZD $136-$544) while tickets to the final on November 2 to cost anywhere between ¥25,000 - ¥100,000 (NZD $340-$1361).

"When you bring Rugby World Cup to a place like Japan, you hope that people will get behind it and the demand will be there – and it really has been," said Gilpin.

"It's a fantastic story for the event and a good message of confidence for the organising committee."

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Most read: Meet the Kiwi farmer who went from being a Black Fern to becoming the first female to ref a men's first-class game

This story was first published on Tuesday September 18

Former Black Fern Rebecca Mahoney may have made history when she became the first woman to referee a men’s first-class rugby match last weekend, but she’s shaking off the milestone.

"It's not about who you are or where you're from or what your gender is, it's just hard work and a bit of training."

The 35-year-old has been around rugby most of her life, having won two World Cups before trading in her No.10 jersey for the whistle.

That experience came in handy on Saturday in Te Aroha when she officiated her first Mitre 10 Heartland Championship game between King Country and Thames Valley.

"To see women ref out there, there's no problems," Thames Valley captain Alex Bradley said after the game.

"They take control - probably better than some of the men."

But it’s not just her experience from the game that helps her.

Mahoney says farm life in Eketahuna plays an important role too.

"I'm extremely challenged to hit a standard that most of the boys can hit quite easily, and that's not going to change - genetics aren’t going to change that," she said.

"It’s just a lot of hard work that's going to have to go into it."

History shows the rural lifestyle has gone hand in hand with rugby's greatest figures – take Sir Colin Meads as a prime example.

Women have officiated men in Tests between developing nations but nothing close to the intensity of first-class New Zealand domestic rugby.

While Mahoney doesn’t think she’ll ever officiate the All Blacks, she’s happy knowing the path is a little bit closer.


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John Mitchell leaves Bulls for defence coach role with England under Eddie Jones - report

Former All Blacks coach John Mitchell has reportedly finalised a deal to join Eddie Jones as England's new defence coach.

ON THE MOVE: John Mitchell

South African newspaper Die Burger reports Mitchell has been released from his Super Rugby head coaching role at the Bulls after the Rugby Football Union agreed to pay a transfer fee.

The fee reportedly sat between NZ$300,000 and $450,000.

Mitchell will now assist Jones as the team looks to turn around their recent form in time for next year's Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Former Springboks captain Victor Matfield, who played 140 matches for the Bulls, has been rumoured as a possible replacement for Mitchell.

Under Mitchell, the Bulls finished 12th in this year's competition after losing 10 of their 16 games.


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First woman to ref a men's first-class rugby match reflects on journey - 'I wasn't sure it was achievable'

Former Black Fern Rebecca Mahoney achieved a milestone for woman in rugby over the weekend when she became the first female referee to officiate a men's first-class game, but she admits she once thought it may have never been possible.

Mahoney, who played 16 matches for the Black Ferns before transitioning to refereeing, was put in charge of Saturday's Mitre 10 Heartland Championship match between Thames Valley and King Country.

"Thames Valley was a fantastic host union for me," she said.

"Just a nice, small, heartland union to get me my first game which was pretty special... the boys were good and it was a really good game."

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For more on this story, watch 1 NEWS at 6pm. Source: 1 NEWS

The 35-year-old said she decided to take up the whistle after realising the women's game was growing.

"I'm really proud that I've achieved what I set out to achieve.

"Three years ago, I set the goal of wanting to referee men's first-class rugby and at the time, I wasn't sure if it was achievable.

"But I've had faith put in me and really enjoyed it."

Rebecca Mahoney controlled a Heartland Championship match between Thames Valley and King Country. Source: 1 NEWS


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