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
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
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

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence