Sonny is off Aviva Bill
Day of milestones for All Blacks as they leave lastest sensation Williams on bench for clash with Ireland
ALL BLACK coach Graham Henry is on the brink of making history with his 100th test match victory by giving Ireland a ‘fever’ in The Aviva on Saturday.
“It is something I am very proud about. It has been a long time. You obviously need a touch of madness to coach test match rugby for 130 tests. It shows longevity in the game,” conceded Henry.
“I guess I’ve done something right over the years. I’ve been associated with some remarkable individuals over that time, not only in New Zealand, but for Wales and The (British & Irish) Lions”.
Ireland will look to break their 23-match hoodoo against the All Blacks, who have decided to leave their newest sensation Sonny-Bill Williams out of the first fifteen in favour of Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith in a clear demonstration of their strength in depth.
“Conrad Smith and Ma’a Nonu have played in the All Blacks for the last four or five years and they have done a bloody good job.
Now, there is also Sonny-Bill Williams and Isaia Toeava who want to play there,” issued Henry. The sport has changed and Henry has had to change with it: “I am probably ‘The Big Picture’ man and the others (management) put the technical expertise into the individuals.
“You have to change with the times. If I coached like I used to coach when I was a young fella’ they wouldn’t put up with it. I was an authoritarian coach through the grades all the way to the Auckland Blues.
“If you tried that today, you wouldn’t last five minutes. You do it a different way. It is a completely different role. When I started at Wales in 1998, I did it all. Now, I have four assistant coaches,” he said.
It could be a day of records for New Zealand. Fly-half Dan Carter is 20 points shy of Jonny Wilkinson’s worldleading 1,178 test match points. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that he will also enter into the record books.
“I knew I wasn’t too far away from the record. I would probably need a few tries to make it to 21. It would be a pretty proud moment,” said Carter.
NOT WHAT DRIVES ME
“It is not something that plays on my mind. If it was to happen, it would be fantastic. It is not what drives me. It is all about this team first. If it does happen, it would be something to look back on at the end of my career”.
Captain Richie McCaw and full-back Mils Muliaina will make their 93rd appearance for the All Blacks, while workhorse lock Brad Thorn will reach 50 caps. Overall, Henry has made five changes from the massacre in Murrayfield, bringing in lock Tom Donnelly, flanker Jerome Kaino, scrum-half Andy Ellis, wing Cory Jane and centre Nonu.
The most obvious area of weakness can be found in the selection of Hikawara Elliot at hooker for the suspended Keven Mealamu. It will be his second cap for his country in what is a pressure point position.