SYDNEY, Aug 6 AAP Sonny Bill Williams and another former Canterbury NRL player Nehe Milner-Skudder are primed for big performances for the All Blacks against Australia on Saturday night, as each returns to their old home.
Prolific try-scoring winger Julian Savea is also hungry for action against Australia after overcoming weight issues to play his first Test of the year.
All three men will be part of a top-notch backline which will test Australia’s defensive capabilities in the Rugby Championship decider at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium, the home of the Bulldogs in the NRL.
Game-breaking centre Williams who comes into the side for Ma’a Nonu, spent four-and-a-half seasons with the Bulldogs, playing in their 2004 title-winning team before quitting in mid-2008 and joining French rugby club Toulon.
“It will be a bit of a homecoming for him,” All Blacks’ coach Steve Hansen said of Williams.
“He’s spent a lot of time over here in Australia and he’ll want to play really well.”
All Blacks debutant Milner-Skudder, whose quick stepping style Hansen labelled as exciting and exhilarating, spent two seasons with the Bulldogs’ under-20 side in 2009-10 before returning to New Zealand and the 15-a-side code.
Although the 24-year-old Hurricanes winger is the one newcomer in a run-on side boasting 868 Test caps, he has probably played more games at ANZ stadium than all of his new international colleagues bar Williams.
“We used to train just up up the road (from ANZ Stadium) at the (NSW) athletics centre when I was here with the Dogs, so it’s good to be back,” Milner-Skudder said.
“I probably didn’t see myself coming back playing for the All Blacks, but I’m stoked to be here.”
Savea, who has logged 30 tries in just 33 Tests, has forced his way back into the side after enduring plenty of running to shed some excess kilos.
“The coaches made a decision and I responded to that really well and worked my arse off,” Savea said.
“The last couple of weeks have been really rewarding seeing the changes and I’m pretty happy with where I am at the moment.
“But it doesn’t stop there and I’ve got to keep working hard,” added Savea, who rated himself a 100 on the enthusiasm level scale going into Saturday’s game.
Hansen praised Savea for his application.
“His attitude to that task had been fantastic and he’s just done whatever he’s been asked to do,” Hansen said.
“He’s made some great gains – he’s gone through a bit of pain, however.
“He was pretty hungry – not for food, I mean for a game – and it’s a good place to have him because, when he’s like that, he’s a pretty handy footballer.”