Rugby World Cup 2019: Sonny Bill Williams 'doubtful' for Argentina test

Don't expect Sonny Bill Williams' name on the All Blacks team sheet to play Argentina this weekend.

New Zealand's first test match of the year will take place on Sunday morning in Buenos Aires - the only clash with the Pumas in a shortened Rugby Championship.

Williams travelled to Argentina with a reduced squad, featuring only three Crusaders - Sevu Reece, George Bridge and Braydon Ennor - with the rest resting from their Super Rugby championship campaign.

But the veteran midfielder is an unlikely starter, as his recovery from a hamstring niggle continues.

While not completely ruling the double World Cup winner out, assistant coach Ian Foster doesn't expect Williams to play.

"He's doubtful, but he is training really well," Foster says.

"He's pretty grumpy with me for holding him back, because he is feeling really good, but we just have to make sure we get full strength back into that leg."

The fixture marks the first time the All Blacks have started their Rugby Championship campaign on the road.

This year's truncated tournament format is necessary, with a Rugby World Cup just months away.

For Foster, travelling first up has been a blessing, with several new faces in the squad. Those players have had the opportunity to acclimatise to the All Blacks environment.

"I think we have quite enjoyed it - it's nice being over here.

"Sometimes, the advantage of travelling early is you get to tighten up a bit as a group when you are touring.

"When you look at the amount of youth we have in this group, with the amount of experience we have at home, it's been good for our newer players to be on the road, where they can mix and mingle.

"I think our learnings have been really positive because of that.

"But we have a pretty big game on Saturday and we all know you can have pretty good weeks, but you still have to nail the Saturday.

"Our challenge is to keep those learnings going, but also relax a little bit, so we can allow guys to do what they do."

Foster expects a traditional Pumas performance, although it remains unclear how many Jaguares players will be rested, just two weeks after the Super Rugby final.

He has cautioned his side against any complacency.

"We are expecting a torrid battle against a pretty confident team. 

"They have their own plans for their build-up to the World Cup, so we are not totally clear abou thow they're going to view it, but we would be foolish to think that it's not going to be a pretty physical test match.

"For us, it's the first test of the year, so it's about re-establishing combinations, because a lot of players haven't played Super Rugby together.

"We need to get our own clarity on what we want to do, and then making sure we go on the park and do the right things, but don't hesitate when it comes to doing the physical things.

"Sometimes, you can come in worrying too much about gameplans, but under pressure, you don't do the basic things well.

"We know the Argentinians grow an arm and a leg when they sense a bit of weakness, so we know we need to get the detail right, but we must make sure we don't move away from being a physical side on Saturday."


Join us at 6am Sunday for live updates of the All Blacks v Argentina Rugby Championship clash