It’ll be a special match on Saturday for Sonny Bill Williams, who has been named to start in his 50th test for the All Blacks.
Williams had a special word of support for friend Quade Cooper, who is set to return to super rugby after signing with the Rebels this week.
In a press conference at the All Blacks’ hotel, Williams admitted that playing this many tests hadn’t always been the plan.
“I think it ended up being a goal. At the start it wasn’t all that realistic,” he told a large crowd of international media.
“It’s been a really blessed journey and I’m just grateful to still be here.”
He’ll line up alongside Ryan Crotty in the midfield, after Jack Goodhue was ruled out with an illness.
It’s the latest episode in Williams’ remarkable sporting career, which started at the Canterbury Bulldogs back in 2004.
Williams said he is excited to see Cooper back out on the field after the Tokoroa-born former Wallaby was frozen out of the Queensland Reds by new coach Brad Thorn. This was despite Cooper being centrally contracted by Rugby Australia on a salary of around $600,000 a year.
“I will always support my bro. I will always support Quade, so that situation is no different.”
Steve Hansen has also given Damian McKenzie a chance to impress against the Wallabies this weekend in Tokyo. He’s named the Chiefs player at fullback for the game on Saturday night, meaning that Ben Smith shifts to the right wing.
The All Blacks have already locked up the Bledisloe Cup for the 15th year in a row, but it is worth remembering that the Wallabies did win this corresponding fixture last year in Brisbane.