All Blacks v Wales: Sonny Bill Williams urges NZ Rugby to help Māori and Pacific Islanders

Sonny Bill Williams has urged NZ Rugby to do more to help All Blacks with Maori or Pacific Island heritage.


Sonny Bill Williams has urged NZ Rugby to do more to help All Blacks with Maori or Pacific Island heritage.

Sonny Bill Williams wants New Zealand Rugby to include someone with Pacific Island or Māori blood in the next All Blacks coaching unit.

Midfielder Williams, who is expected to announce his retirement from the All Blacks after the Rugby World Cup bronze final against Wales in Tokyo on Friday night, is of Samoan heritage.

When asked to explain what qualities attack coach Ian Foster would bring to the All Blacks if he succeeds in replacing outgoing coach Steve Hansen after the tournament Williams replied that it was his understanding a number of applicants would apply for the position.

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Instead of directly addressing the question about Foster, who has assisted Hansen for eight seasons, Williams deviated to the issue of how the All Blacks coaches can communicate and assist players of Māori or Pacific Island heritage.

“There are a lot of coaches leaving at the end of the year, and one thing that I would probably put to the NZRU, it would be good to see a Pacific Islander or Māori in the coaching system that would have a bit of influence,” Williams said.

“Because of the way the game is going, and it is today. There are a lot of island boys, a lot of Māori boys who play for the All Blacks.

“I am just thinking how we can get a lot more out of those boys. I know that there is a bit of space there for that growth.”

The All Blacks coaching staff and their management crew are all of European descent.

Steve Hansen, Mike Cron, Scott McLeod and Foster are Pakeha. Although a leading member of the management team, Gilbert Enoka, is of Rarotongan descent through his father the majority of the other staff are Pakeha.

The exit of Hansen, who has been head coach for eight years and previously assisted Sir Graham Henry – another Pakeha – has already created speculation about who should replace him when NZ Rugby starts searching for his replacement after the tournament in Japan.

Foster has already signalled he wants to replace Hansen, although his stocks may have fallen after the All Blacks were beaten 19-7 by England in the semifinal in Yokohama last weekend.

Crusaders coach Scott Robertson has also said he will apply. A number of other leading coaches are yet to confirm their intentions.

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All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said if the reporter wanted to go outside, he’d give him a rugby education.

Joe Schmidt, Dave Rennie, Jamie Joseph and Warren Gatland, have been mentioned as potential replacements as speculation goes into overdrive.

Joseph, who guided Japan to the quarterfinals of the World Cup before they were bowled by South Africa, is Māori and has coached the NZ Māori team.

Of the five men who coached Super Rugby teams this year, three were Pakeha. Chiefs coach Colin Cooper, who will be replaced by Gatland next year, is Māori. Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger is part Samoan, and his brother Stephen played for Samoa before representing the All Blacks.

Former All Blacks captain Tana Umaga is part Samoan. He coached the Blues for several seasons, but was replaced by Leon MacDonald this year and now works as his assistant.

Williams, 34, has been a strong advocate for the Pacific Island community in recent years and has used his profile to help shine a light on ways it can be assisted.

His decision to publicly state NZ Rugby should do more to assist the Pacific Island and Maori players in the All Blacks is sure to generate a debate among rugby fans and, as a consequence, should give the board members plenty to discuss before they unearth Hansen’s successor.

Meanwhile, Williams is likely to play Wales after being used as a substitute in the defeat to England.

Hansen is expected to give Williams a run in his swansong game, probably alongside Ryan Crotty who will play in Japan next year.

Williams said the All Blacks’ review of the loss to England was thorough and honest, as they aim to farewell captain Kieran Read and Hansen with a win.

“Some of the boys put their bulletproof vests on, but we stepped up. And we owned it.”



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Publish date : 2019-10-28 05:57:00

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