Rugby World Cup 2019: Sonny Bill Williams poised for All Blacks midfield against South Africa

If he's fit, he's in.

Sonny Bill Williams seems poised to take his place in the All Blacks midfield for their opening Rugby World Cup clash with South Africa on Saturday.

Earlier this week, rumours were rife that the cross-code veteran, contesting his third World Cup tournament, had picked up another injury and would return home without taking the field.

The gossip seemed believable - Williams has been plagued with injuries over recent seasons and was barely seen for the Blues during Super Rugby this year. Despite starring in New Zealand's 36-0 romp over Australia in the second Bledisloe Cup test, he was sent back to club and provincial rugby to prove his fitness.

All Blacks management was quick to pour cold water on the ongoing injury rumours this week and with coach Steve Hansen due to name his line-up for the Springboks showdown on Thursday, Newshub's Ross Karl thinks Williams will fill the second-five spot.

"If Sonny Bill is fit enough to play, he's the starting 12," Karl told The AM Show. "It's as simple as that.

"He brings a directness to the attack that allows them to go wide and wasn't there at times earlier in the season, when he wasn't playing.

springbok team
Photo credit: Newshub.

"Anton Lienert-Brown was at 12, but he tends to run sidways a bit, which is better suited to centre than it is to 12.

"[Williams] brings a real direct nature to that play, so if he's fit, he'll be there. If he's not fully fit, expect Ryan Crotty to be there."

Just hours before the first big team announcement of the World Cup, Karl reported the mood of the All Blacks camp as "surprisingly relaxed".

"There's been a fair bit of tension in press conferences and around training that we've seen in the build-up, and maybe that had to do with the poor performances against South Africa and Australia first up.

"But they look very relaxed - they're walking into press conferences, they're joking... they're very, very jovial really, before such a big game. I don't know whether that is masking that fact this is such a gin-normous match for them or whether they're just where they want to be now."

Karl considers the All Blacks have more World Cup experience than their rivals and can afford to feel more comfortable under pressure at this tournament.

This story was produced in partnership with Suzuki.

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