SBW's Bombay outing

The All Blacks midfielder had his first game of rugby since his red card against the Lions in Wellington last month.

From Bombay to the Bledisloe Cup, it is hardly the ideal preparation to take on the Wallabies. 

But, after finally returning to the field, Sonny Bill Williams is hopeful it will be enough to see him get the nod for the All Blacks in Sydney next weekend.

The cross-code superstar made the first real on-field step to putting the past six weeks behind him with a 65-minute hit-out in a Counties B inter-squad match on Saturday.

A few hundred locals braved heavy rain at the Bombay Rugby Club near Pukekohe and 'SBW' did not disappoint.

​Despite the terrible conditions, that reduced the field to a muddy bog, Williams wowed the crowd with an offloading masterclass.

A few players tried to have a go at him but he swatted them away and put in a few big tackles himself.

He was also denied a try for a double movement, and left the field to rousing applause as his side prevailed 42-28.

It was a world away from the packed stadiums he is used to playing in front for the All Blacks. But the 32-year-old seemed to relish going back to the heart of the game.

"It was good to, A, get out and play the game that I love and, B, get back to some grassroots footy," Williams said on the sidelines. "I don't know how often the fields get looked after but it was pretty tough conditions out there. But it was good to play with the boys and get a hand on the ball.

"You chuck a bit of deep heat on before the game and you're ready to go. The boys were really good, I know a few of them and it was just good to get back out there."

The whole reason Williams took the field was due to the four-match ban he served for a reckless shoulder charge on British and Irish Lions wing Anthony Watson in the second test.

Despite the efforts of World Rugby, Williams' suspension eventually ended after the All Blacks' 'game of three halves' against Taranaki and Counties in Pukekohe on Friday night, allowing him to blow out the cobwebs ahead of the first Bledisloe Cup/Rugby Championship test.

One of four midfielders named in Steve Hansen's 33-man squad alongside Ryan Crotty, Anton Lienert-Brown and Ngani Laumape, Williams and Crotty are favoured to resume the partnership that started the first test victory over the Lions at Eden Park.

The midfield turned out to be quite problematic for the All Blacks against the Lions, with Crotty picking up a hamstring injury in that game which ruled him out of the series.

Williams only lasted 25 minutes of the second test before the infamous shoulder charge that saw him sent from the field and subsequently suspended, leaving Lienert-Brown and rookie Ngani Laumape to start the drawn third test as the series finished locked at 1-1.

Williams, though, was not getting ahead of himself.

"I've put my best foot forward now and I've got to train hard and hopefully get up for selection," he said. 

"I'll see how we go but it's going to be a tough battle over there. It's like my second home over there (Sydney). My wife's from there and I always have good time when I go back so I'm looking forward to a bit more sunshine."

The All Blacks depart for Sydney on Sunday.



Photo by: Peter Meecham/STUFF Caption: Sonny Bill Williams in action for Counties B at Bombay Rugby Club in his first game back from his suspension after a shoulder charge in the Lions Series.