WELLINGTON (Reuters) – Sonny Bill Williams has fired a broadside at media for reporting that his position in the All Blacks squad is “under pressure” ahead of the World Cup in Japan.
Williams, who turns 34 on Saturday and has struggled with injuries in the last two seasons, was retained in Steve Hansen’s trimmed-down squad on Wednesday but rested for the final Rugby Championship match against Australia in Perth next week.
With New Zealand boasting a slew of fit, high-quality centres including Jack Goodhue, Ngani Laumape and Anton Lienert-Brown, the local media have questioned whether Hansen needs to take a chance on twice World Cup winner Williams.
Williams, who will be sent back to provincial rugby for the next two weekends before returning to the squad for the Wallabies test in Auckland, made it clear he was tired of the speculation.
“And for those that say I’m under pressure playing a game that I enjoy. Get your priorities right,” he wrote on Twitter.
“Look at what’s going on in the world. Starving children, the single mother raising 3 kids, the atrocities refugees are facing around the world, racism. This is what I call pressure.”
Williams later made a cryptic tweet about media leaks.
“I find it very interesting when so called “private” conversations end up in the media,” he wrote, adding a quote from rights activist Malcolm X.
“I have more respect for a man who lets me know where he stands, even if he’s wrong. Than the one who comes to me as an angel and is nothing but a devil” – Malcom X”.
Williams missed a lot of rugby for his Super Rugby side Auckland Blues this season after having knee surgery but returned to the test arena in the starting number 12 jersey in the 16-16 draw against South Africa in Wellington last Saturday.
Renowned for his crisp offloads, Williams tallied none against the Springboks, recorded no linebreaks nor beaten defenders and ran only 14 metres with the ball.
Playing outside him, Goodhue ran 56 metres and scored a try while making two linebreaks and beating seven defenders.
Hansen defended Williams’s quiet game, saying he was just happy to see him emerge unscathed.
“He hasn’t played a lot of rugby and was rusty so we won’t get too judgmental about his rugby performance, the fact was his body held together. That was encouraging,” Hansen said after the Boks test.
Williams’s Twitter blast drew a sour response from some New Zealand pundits.
“Honestly Sonny, yes there are people struggling in the world and yes we care about them,” former New Zealand cricket international Mark Richardson said on The AM Show, a TV chat-show.
“But you are an All Black. Get over yourself and let people in this country talk what they like to talk and that is rugby.”
(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)