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International

Sonny Bill Slammed for ‘Pressure’ Comments

Sonny Bill Williams took aim at the people criticising him last night, but a former Black Cap has fired shots straight back at the All Black

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(Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

Former Black Cap Mark Richardson has crushed Sonny Bill Williams comments on Twitter in which he took a shot at his critics and the media.

Richardson, now a broadcaster was speaking on Three’s The AM Show discussed Williams comments where he suggested people “get their priorities right” instead of criticising his performances.

“I’d suggest that doing one’s job is the most important priority for a sports journo, so do you deny the right of a sports journo to do their job, Sonny Bill? So they can feed their families Sonny Bill? Just like you get paid to do your job Sonny Bill, which I assume is a priority of yours to care for your family Sonny Bill,” he said.

Williams claimed that people should care about things such as “starving children, the single mother raising 3 kids, the atrocities refugees are facing around the world, racism”. All of which Richardson agreed with but he believes that people can discuss the All Black’s form if they want to.

“Honestly Sonny, yes there are people struggling in the world and yes we care about them. But you are an All Black. Get over yourself and let people in this country talk what they like to talk and that is rugby,” he added.

Fellow host Duncan Garner went on to take a dig at Williams and his views.

“Sonny Bill, he’s precious,” he said.

Williams is currently set to play for Counties Manukau in the Mitre 10 Cup this Saturday along with Nepo Laulala, as Williams tries to prove his fitness to All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen.

The centre has been plagued by injury in recent times and has struggled to find a consistent run of form which has called on people to question his selection for this year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.

It appears as though Williams frustration at the whispers on the street boiled over yesterday as he took to social media to put critics in their place.

“And for those that say I’m under pressure playing a game that I enjoy. Get your priorities right. Look at what’s going on in the world. Starving children, the single mother raising 3 kids, the atrocities refugees are facing around the world, racism. This is what I call pressure,” he said.

Williams’ comments are likely to only add fuel to the fire and it seems like he will have to perform on the pitch to convince people he is worthy of another World Cup journey.

He will join back up with the All Blacks squad ahead of their second Bledisloe Cup game in Auckland on August 10th and will be hoping to prove his case for selection.

International

This Weekend’s Guide to Key Games

There are three key internationals taking place this weekend and here’s all you need to know about them

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(Photo by Bob Bradford - CameraSport via Getty Images)

The World Cup warm-up games are well and truly underway and while the Rugby Championship may have ended last weekend the Southern Hemispheres top sides are in action.

Although all the games are indeed World Cup warm-up games, they could have a serious bearing on who heads into the tournament in Japan as the top ranked team in the world. So, here’s what you need to know.

New Zealand vs Australia (KO 08 35, Sky Sports Action)

The All Blacks are in desperate need of a win following last weekend’s record loss to the Wallabies and have cut some key members of their team in order to get a reaction.

As well as gaining some revenge and hoping to retain their Bledisloe Cup title on Saturday, the All Blacks know that they must win to have any chance of holding onto the No 1 spot in the World Rankings, where they have been for nearly 10 years.

On the other hand, the Wallabies will be hoping to secure a first Bledisloe Cup title since 2002, while also ending a 33-year draught for a win in Eden Park. Both team’s have everything to gain with a win, this could be another cracker of a game with both expected to go all out to win.

Wales vs England (KO 14 15, Sky Sports Action)

England ended Wales’ 14-game winning streak last weekend and now head to the Principality for the reverse fixture so expect a Welsh backlash.

The visitors have added experience to their squad from last week which will worry the hosts, while the host have tweaked their side slightly in a bid to overturn the opposition.

Both go into the game knowing they could potentially overtake the All Blacks at the top of the World Rankings with a win. For the home side it is simple, win and they reach the summit. An old rivalry with even more edge, what more could you want?

South Africa vs Argentina (KO 16 05, Sky Sports Action)

Last weekend these two played and the Springboks blitzed the Pumas 46-13 to claim their first Rugby Championship crown in a decade.

This time around there is no silverware on the line and both teams have made vast changes to their sides to give players a chance to earn a place on the plane to Japan.

However, despite the changes there is still motivation for both as this is their final game before heading to Japan and Argentina are currently on a losing streak they will want to end before the start of the tournament. Expect big hits and a powerful display from both packs with key men out to prove a point.

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Who is Ruaridh McConnochie?

The Bath winger has never played for England, but was included in Eddie Jones’ 31-man squad for the World Cup

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(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Four years ago, as England crashed out of their home World Cup in the group stages, Ruaridh McConnochie was turning out for National Division Three side Nuneaton.

This week, he was named in Eddie Jones’ 31-man England squad for the 2019 World Cup, after just one season in the professional game.

It has been meteoric rise for the winger from Kent, but how did McConnochie make the transition from amateur rugby in such a short time?

As a youngster, McConnochie was never involved with any professional academies. Instead, he plied his trade with amateur side Cranbrook, in the sixth tier of the English rugby pyramid.

Then, after beginning his teaching degree at Gloucester University, McConnochie joined Nuneaton ahead of the 2012-13 season.

So much was his love for the game, McConnochie made the 146-mile round trip from Gloucester as much as three times a week.

Elliott Brown has been Nuneaton’s captain since the 2012-13 season, and described McConnochie as a “gangly, scrawny, super skinny lad.”

His ability was immediately apparent though, as he ran in 24 tries across two seasons for the club.

“He could see things other players couldn’t, whether he took a gap himself or put someone into it. He had an exceptional ability to beat the first man, you could almost guarantee it,”said Brown.

McConnochie then made the step up to Hartpury College, where after a short spell, he was called up to the England Sevens circuit.

With Sevens being introduced to the Olympics in 2016, McConnochie had the chance to make a name for himself on the big stage.

Sevens head coach Simon Amor, unlike Jones this week, overlooked McConnochie though, naming the man from Tenterden as a reserve.

Shortly after selection though, injuries meant McConnochie was called up, and he went on to play his part for a team that won the silver medal in London.

His performances didn’t go unnoticed for the Sevens side, and after another productive year in the national squad McConnochie was offered a contract by Bath in 2018.

“It was more in the back of my head having never done an academy pathway and never being involved in professional 15s I wanted to give it a try. If at the end of the first year it wasn’t going well, that’s life, but if it was I would’ve hated to have retired from Sevens and not given it a try, ” McConnochie said.

McConnochie’s Bath debut came sooner than expected however, as an Anthony Watson injury meant he was deployed as fullback by head coach Todd Blackadder.

Other injuries across the back-three saw McConnochie become a regular fixture in the backline during the second half of the season, and after four tries in 15 games, he was called up to an England training squad in June.

Despite injury preventing his debut for England against Wales on Sunday, Jones was convinced by McConnochie after he impressed in training camps over the summer.

McConnochie’s inclusion was a shock to many in the rugby world; a feeling that was mutual between fans and the player.

“It was pretty last minute, and it did take me by surprise. I just wanted to go into each week and live it as a bonus, because it’s incredible,” he admitted.

After his injury prior to the game on Sunday, McConnochie believed his chances of making the squad were over.

“If you’d asked me 48 hours ago I’d be saying something different. It was a dark 24 hours with the injury. Then come this morning I was quite at peace, if it didn’t happen I’d have no regrets over the process,” McConnochie said.

McConnochie is expected to fit enough make his England debut against Wales in Cardiff this Saturday, which would be the end of an incredible four-year journey.

What the boss said

England head coach Eddie Jones vividly remembers the first time he watched McConnochie play for Bath.

“I will tell you the game I saw him. It was a beautiful sunny day in Exeter. He played for Bath and did a lot of good things. I remember driving back in the car and trying to find out more information about him,” Jones said.

“He is a big tall guy with feet and, again, with Exeter because you are close to the ground you can hear and see the communication of the players. He is a very good communicator. We found out more about him, did some background information, and he continued to play well.”

Although Jones’ decision to include McConnochie in his squad had been questioned, the Australian believes selecting the Bath back was a no-brainer.

“Firstly, I think it’s always nice to bring new blood in,” said Jones. “It freshens everything up. When you have the enthusiasm that young players do, it adds to the squad.

“Once he came into camp, he cemented our impression of him,” Jones added. “He’s a mature boy who has played a number of positions, so he was a pretty easy selection in the end.”

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Fiji Name 32-Man Squad Ahead of World Cup

Fiji have cut their initial 50-man squad down to just 32 players ahead of next month’s tournament in Japan

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(Photo by MB Media/Getty Images)

Fijian head coach John McKee has announced a 32-man squad ahead of the Rugby World Cup in Japan next month.

The squad will be cut down to 31 before the tournament starts meaning one player from the remaining group will miss out.

Fiji will be captained by veteran forward Dominiko Waqaniburotu, who is one of five players that will appear at their third World Cup along with Kini Murimurivalu, Vereniki Goneva, Leone Nakarawa and Campese Ma’afu.

In total there are 17 players included that turned out for Fiji during the 2015 edition of the competition.

McKee has called on his players to now step up their preparations for the tournament.

“I wish the players selected well and remind them of the responsibility they must take on in representing Fiji in a Rugby World Cup. With 35 days until our opening match against the Wallabies, now is the time to step our preparation up in the final phase to ensure we put ourselves in the best position to achieve our performance goals at the World Cup,” he said.

There are a number of players included from National Rugby Championship side the Fijian Drua, with Frank Lomani, the new Melbourne Rebels signing the pick of the bunch.

As well as them there are some European-based players such as Semi Radradra, Ben Volavola and Waisea Nayacalevu, with Sevens star turned XV’s powerhouse Viliame Mata among them.

McKee is happy with the mix of youth and experience and believes that the country are in with a chance of qualifying from Pool D which contains Wales and the Wallabies.

“I am very pleased to announce a group of players to represent Fiji at the World Cup, which I believe has the potential to challenge for a place in the play-offs from Pool D. With selections made, players can focus completely on their preparation for the World Cup and being the best player they can be for the team and for Fiji. This is an exciting time for these men who have been selected for the Flying Fijians heading to the World Cup in Japan. They must not let this opportunity to do something special for Fiji slip by,” he added.

The Fijians now head on a 10-day training camp before facing Tonga in the Pasifika Challenge II on the 31st of August.

They will then head to Japan on September 6th ahead of their opening game against the Wallabies on the 21st.

Check Out the Full 32-Man Squad Below.

FORWARDS:

Campese Ma’afu

Eroni Mawi

Peni Ravai

Mesulame Dolokoto

Samuel Matavesi

Ratu Vere Vugakoto

Lee-Roy Atalifo

Manasa Saulo

Kalivati Tawake

Tevita Cavubati

Leone Nakarawa

Api Ratuniyarawa

Tevita Ratuva

Semi Kunatani

Viliame Mata

Mosese Voka

Dominiko Waqaniburotu

Peceli Yato

BACKS:

Frank Lomani

Nikola Matawalu

Henry Seniloli

Levani Botia

Jale Vatubua

Ben Volavola

Vereniki Goneva

Filipo Nakosi

Waisea Nayacalevu

Semi Radradra

Josua Tuisova

Joshua Matavesi

Alivereti Veitokani

Kini Murimurivalu

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