Toby Flood: Sonny Bill is just one of 15 world-class All Blacks, but we're wary of his X-factor

He is a big powerful runner who takes the ball to the gain line and offloads

There may have been a few people who were surprised by the selection of Sonny Bill Williams yesterday as one of four changes made by New Zealand for the opening match of the Investec internationals against England at Twickenham tomorrow, but as a squad we were always aware that they were going to try out the centre combination of Sonny and Ma'a Nonu sooner rather than later. We knew it was on the cards.

Shontayne Hape, our inside centre, obviously knows a lot about him from their rugby league days and Sonny also played alongside Jonny Wilkinson at Toulon last season. Jonny's recovering from injury at the moment but he's around the squad too and he just confirmed what we already knew. He's a big, powerful runner who likes to take the ball to the gain line and offload.

Shontayne said the same thing about Sonny, and you only need to look at the clips to see what he's capable of doing in terms of busting through tackles, offloading out of the back of tackles, and his ability to worry and concern defenders. So we have a little bit of knowledge about him, but there's still a large part unknown.

We don't know how New Zealand are going to use him, so there is that X-factor about him. But we do know that he's a very good player, a dangerous guy to have around. We'll get as much information on him as possible but you don't want to go over the top because New Zealand have got quality players in every position. It's a matter of trying to deal with the team as a whole.

People keep talking about a backlash, because New Zealand were beaten 26-24 by Australia in Hong Kong last Saturday, but I don't see it like that. They're a good team and they've lost a game of rugby. That's all. I don't think they're going to start soul-searching and feel as though they need to look for anything drastically different.

They're going to go out there and play the way New Zealand have always played. There's going to be no real change in what they do and how they behave. We're fully aware that maybe it will increase their concentration a little bit and maybe they'll need to build a foundation in the first 20 minutes but a leopard doesn't change its spots.

They are the best side in the world and they've got there by winning so many games and by playing the way they have. As an opposition team, you know you're up against the best team you can come across.

I know that England have not beaten New Zealand since 2003 but you don't want to dwell on all of the history. You just consider it another game of rugby but at the same time you're fully appreciative of what they have achieved and how they've gone about that. From 1 to 15, and in all their 22, they've got guys that can cause damage.

They've got Dan Carter opposite me in the No 10 shirt. He's in a similar situation to me: just back after injury. He's been a world-class player for a long, long time now and guys who are that good don't tend to need long to get back into the swing of things. I thought he played well against Australia last week. He looked pretty sharp, pretty dangerous.

As for myself, I'm fine. I'm feeling fit. I've had a couple of games for Leicester and I've worked hard on my fitness levels. I'm feeling comfortable.

As an England team, of course, it's our first game since we beat Australia in the second Test in Sydney in June. We don't want to dwell on that, and get caught up in it, but it was something that was very positive for the squad and we hope we can build on it.

There's a huge time gap between that and this first autumn Test but the way we've trained in the last couple of weeks, we've felt comfortable with each other and we've looked pretty sharp at times. I think the guys are happy with how things have moved forward. We're looking forward to the challenge of playing the number one team in the world – and to facing the haka. I'm told that Richard Cockerill, the director of rugby at my club, Leicester Tigers, has been urging England to ignore the International Rugby Board directive about keeping a respectful distance while the haka is being performed. Cockers is Cockers. In his playing days he was very much an in-your-face kind of character, wanting to take it to the opposition – as he did when he faced New Zealand and the haka at Old Trafford in 1997.

We'll just be taking the haka for what it is, which is part and parcel of playing against New Zealand. It's something you have to respect. I think most of us have seen it a few times now. It's not something that winds you up. You just take it as part of the occasion and get on with it.

Dan's fake tan jibe shows a jealous – and pasty – prop

I would like to take this opportunity to set the record straight about some fakery on the part of one of my Leicester – and indeed England – colleagues. I share a house with Dan Cole, our tighthead prop, and in an interview last weekend he spoke about me using fake tan. I would like to state here that I have never used fake tan – cross my heart and hope to die.

It's a complete and utter invention. I do genuinely have fairly decent skin tone and I think it annoys Dan because he's so pasty.

It's not the first time he's made these fake claims. He likes to pretend he's a typical prop – you know, dour and quiet – but I think that he's actually the other way. I'm told he wants to buy a Jaguar XKR, which is quite interesting. He's got himself a girlfriend and I think he wants to drive around Leicester in a flashy little car with her in the front seat. I think that's his main ambition at the moment.

News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
News
people
News
i100
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Sport
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
football
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene
tv
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments