Sonny Bill: Past form means nothing
19 October 2011, 09:30
Auckland - Previous results will have no bearing on Sunday's Rugby World Cup final, New Zealand back Sonny Bill Williams warned as he reflected on France's rocky road to the climax of rugby's showpiece tournament.
The French, hit by rumours of a rift between players and management, lost two pool matches, to New Zealand (37-17) and Tonga (19-14), before eliminating a lamentable England in the last eight and then just doing enough to defeat 14-man Wales 9-8 in the semi-finals.
The All Blacks, however, finished their pool play unbeaten and impressed again in knockout wins over Argentina and Australia, making the hosts firm favourites for the final at an Eden Park ground where they haven't lost since 1994.
"You can play against one side one week and then you play against them a couple of weeks later and they're a different team," Williams said Wednesday.
"Past form means nothing," added Williams, whose yellow card in the semi-final for a shoulder charge saw him on the field for only three minutes of a 20-6 win over the Wallabies after his late run-on as a replacement.
Turning to what he saw as French strengths, Williams said: "Their scrum is up there with the best in the world, their lineout is not too bad either and their backs are unpredictable.
"Expect the unexpected. They can shock us, as they've done in past World Cups."
Versatile back Williams made his name in rugby league, spending five years in Australia playing for the Canterbury Bulldogs, including winning the NRL grand final in 2004 at the age of 18 and going on to win seven Kiwi league caps.
And the 26-year-old, who broke his Bulldogs contract in a high-profile transfer to French Top 14 club Toulon before coming back to New Zealand in a bid to make the All Blacks squad, was coy on his immediate future.
"I haven't really thought too much about after the World Cup," he said.
"I've just been having so much fun, going from week to week trying to stay alive and stay in the team. That's been the whole focus. This Sunday is the big one and hopefully we can win it, because I think we deserve to."
Williams's second-row namesake Ali insisted there would be no complacency in the final.
"If you are too relaxed then you overlook the little things, the intricacies of the game, but if you're not relaxed enough you can get too tense and you don't enjoy the moment," the lock said.
"We're just trying to enjoy the week, because it's different to any other week that we'll ever have.
"Our performance last week won't be good enough. I don't care what you think of how the French have played in the last few weeks, they'll be a completely different side.
"They'll be a team that's possessed and if we're not at that level or better, then we'll walk away with nothing."