Rejuvenated Sonny Bill itching to return

Stronger, faster and smarter — cross-code star Sonny Bill Williams sounded an ominous warning ahead of his Super Rugby comeback for the Blues against the Highlanders.

The All Blacks midfielder will make his Blues debut from the bench following eight months of hard work after rupturing his Achilles tendon playing sevens at the Rio Olympics.

The 33-Test All Black says he has made the most of his enforced time off, and is hopeful he’ll be in the best shape of his career when he takes the field at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.

“I’ve been working pretty hard in the gym and out of the gym, just being real diligent in all of those little things I needed to do, and also trying to upskill myself from a game understanding point of view,” he said.

Sony Bill Williams Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images

“I feel like I’ve gotten a little bit faster – I’ve just been diligent in my preparation, and I’ve been diligent every day, making sure I tick those boxes because there’s a lot of them to tick

“It’s been a long journey, but I’m itching to get back out there now.”

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Williams said the injury had come as a timely reminder to refresh himself, mind and body, and he had renewed appreciation for where he was and what he did.

“Trying to be grateful every day was the key, but then also making that decision early on that I was going to come back in better shape, better nick, than before the injury,” Williams said.

“Time will tell if that will happen, but I’m certainly in a good frame of mind.”

Blues coach Tana Umaga said Williams’s attitude and work ethic meant he was returning in excellent form.

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“He doesn’t leave any stone unturned – it’s getting back, but he’s wanted to come back better as well and he feels a lot better than he did prior to the injury.”

The former All Blacks skipper said Williams’s return to the No.12 jersey would be carefully managed.

“We want to make sure we give him some good time, but it’s controlled as best we can.”

Dual international Williams, who has won two Rugby World Cups, a Super Rugby title with the Chiefs and NRL premierships with two different clubs, took his enforced break as a chance to study up on rugby’s finer points.

He said he’d focused on the game from a team point of view, and was looking at subtleties he could add to his game.

However, his expectations for his first game of Super Rugby are modest.

“I’m not going out there to set the world on fire, but I’m going out there to work hard and just be competitive.”

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