A disciple of self-discipline off the field, Sonny Bill Williams is staying on the straight and narrow with his rugby playing habits too.
Code-hopper Williams exploded back into Test rugby in Saturday’s 74-6 win over the United States in Chicago, so much so that he’s a decent chance of winning selection for Saturday’s showdown with England at Twickenham.
The 27-year-old didn’t resemble somebody coming off two years out of the sport – having played for the Sydney Roosters in the NRL.
He also didn’t quite look like the Williams who played 19 All Blacks Tests from 2010-12.
The big difference? One offload.
New Zealand threw 32 offloads between them against the overwhelmed Eagles yet Williams, who received plenty of ball, was content not to deliver what has become a trademark in both codes.
“The biggest thing that I’ve learned, coming back into rugby, is that the opportunity’s usually there but it’s about picking it and making the right decision,” Williams said.
“When it’s on, I back myself to pass it but when it’s not, it’s not.”
He remembers All Blacks coach Steve Hansen hammering that point two years ago and it has stuck.
For someone playing within himself, Williams’ other statistics were impressive.
He beat a game-high six Eagles defenders and made three clean breaks, admittedly against a wafer-thin defensive line.
The All Blacks selectors are strongly considering playing him on Saturday ahead of Malakai Fekitoa, who scored the last-minute try to snatch victory over Australia at Brisbane last month.
The backline holds considerable interest elsewhere ahead of the New Zealand team announcement on Thursday.
There are three genuine contenders for the five-eighth jersey.
Dan Carter also made an impressive return to the Test stage at Chicago but it may be too soon for him to leapfrog Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett.
Cruden’s composed display last week could give him the inside running after missing the three previous Tests.
A tour-ending injury to wing Cory Jane makes the back three easier to predict, although the selectors may consider starting Charles Piutau if they were to shift Ben Smith back to fullback in place of Israel Dagg.
However, Dagg was sharp against the Eagles and should be retained.
The only element of doubt in the pack is whether Jerome Kaino is deemed fully recovered from the foot injury which ruled him out of the Brisbane and Chicago Tests.
If not, Liam Messam would start on the blindside flank.