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Page last updated at 07:43 GMT, Friday, 5 November 2010

Williams 'a greater threat than Lomu', England warned

England v New Zealand
Venue: Twickenham Date: Saturday 6 November Kick-off: 1430 GMT Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live, text commentary and live scores on BBC Sport website, Live on Sky Sports 1; Highlights on BBC Three and online Sat 1930 GMT, and Sun 7 Nov on BBC Two and online 1130

By Ben Dirs

Sonny Bill Williams trains with the All Blacks ahead of Saturday's game against England
Williams played seven Tests for the New Zealand rugby league side

England have been warned by a former team-mate of Sonny Bill Williams that the All Blacks debutant could be a more potent threat than Jonah Lomu.

Centre Tom May, capped twice by England and who played with 6ft 4in, 17 stone Williams at Toulon, said life would be "difficult" for the hosts on Saturday.

"Sonny's got more to his game than Jonah Lomu," May told BBC Sport.

"His size is his obvious strength but his offloading ability is unbelievable. He'll be looking forward to Saturday."

Williams, 25, replaces Conrad Smith at outside centre for New Zealand in one of four changes from the side narrowly beaten by Australia last weekend.

He holds the ball away from his body in one hand and it makes him hard to stop

Tom May on Williams

There are those who believe the former New Zealand rugby league star could be the best convert to union since England great Jason Robinson.

"Because he's spent a lot of time playing league he's developed some decent skills and it was only a matter of time before he started playing for the All Blacks," added May, who played with Williams last season after joining Toulon from Newcastle in April 2009.

"He can hold the ball in one hand, which I haven't seen many people able to do, and it enables him to run at full pelt, break tackles and offload so accurately.

"Most people tuck the ball under their arm or hold it in two hands, but he holds it away from his body in one hand and it makes him hard to stop as a defender.

"If you go high you stand the risk of being bumped off, whereas if you go low the risk as a defender is he's able to offload, so it's going to be difficult for England."


Williams will be playing against former New Zealand rugby league team-mate Shontayne Hape, who starts at inside centre for England, and opposite Mike Tindall, both English centres standing 6ft 2in and weighing 16 stone.

Wing Mark Cueto admits England are not quite sure how to stop Williams.

"We've got a load of computer footage to analyse all their players," he said. "When you click on Sonny Bill it looks like Superman, it's absolutely ridiculous."

England have bad memories of giant New Zealand backs, with Lomu's one-man demolition of Will Carling's side in the 1995 World Cup semi-final, when he scored four tries, a particular sore point.

Sonny Bill Williams
Williams shows off his one-handed skills playing for Toulon

But Williams, who moved to France from Sydney rugby league side the Bulldogs in 2008, has the ball-handling skills and vision to go with his natural attributes.

Those were honed during his two years in Toulon, where the influence of England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson proved a telling one.

"When I first went to Toulon I was injured a lot and I didn't know if I could cut it. I had a lot of self-doubts," said Williams, who left Toulon in the summer to return to New Zealand, where he played half-a-dozen games for Canterbury in the ITM Cup.

"Fortunately, Tana Umaga [then Toulon coach] had the foresight that I could play rugby even before I did and playing with Jonny last year gave me a lot of confidence.

"I used to speak to Jonny about how much it meant to him to play for his country and how much he got out of it. On top of that was the driving factor of trying to prove myself in rugby.

"To play alongside some greats in Jonny, Tana Umaga, Felipe Contepomi and Joe Van Niekerk really helped my game because I knew those guys had reached the top.

"After that I felt I could mix it with the best. That is why I wanted to go back and have a crack at the All Blacks, to prove to people and to myself that I could play."

New Zealand have won their last eight Tests against England since June 2003 and have not lost a Test to one of the home nations in Britain and Ireland since a 31-28 defeat at Twickenham in 2002.

That was one of only six England victories in 33 meetings with the All Blacks since 1905.

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see also
England 16-26 New Zealand
06 Nov 10 |  Rugby Union
Williams to make All Blacks debut
04 Nov 10 |  Rugby Union
Prop Sheridan returns for England
02 Nov 10 |  English
All Blacks wary of Foden threat
02 Nov 10 |  Rugby Union
Australia 26-24 New Zealand
30 Oct 10 |  Rugby Union
Wilkinson to miss November Tests
29 Oct 10 |  English
BBC to screen autumn rugby Tests
26 Oct 10 |  Rugby Union

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