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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project