All Blacks great Sonny Bill Williams has named his Dream XIII – the players he played with or against who left an indelible mark on him – but rugby icons Richie McCaw and Dan Carter are not among them.
There aren’t many players who can boast the cross-code success of Sonny Bill Williams. 36-year-old has won NRL Premierships, Super Rugby titles, Bledisloe Cups and Rugby World Cups.
Williams told Sporting News he made his decisions based on the players he respected both on and off the field.
#1 Keven Mealamu: 132 Test caps and two World Cup wins for the All Blacks
“I’d have Kevvy in there not just for what he’s done on the field, but for what he’s done off it. When you’re in that All Blacks environment and you see what he does, he’s such an inspiring person.”
#2 Jerome Kaino: 67 Tests and 11 tries for the All Blacks
“He’s such a nice guy and easy going, but when he gets to that paddock he’s like a savage. He’d definitely be one who could play league. I love the way he plays and carries and smashes, there’s just no fear in him.”
#3 Kurtley Beale: 60 Tests, 12 tries and 118 points for the Wallabies
“He’s a player I’ve loved watching over the years and I don’t think he gets the acknowledgement he deserves. He was one the best players – if not the best player – for the Australian team in the World Cup. Just his skillset, and you can tell that he’s got his stuff together off the field as well.”
#4 Jonny Wilkinson: 97 Tests, 1246 points and a World Cup for England
“I’m lucky enough to say I’ve played with Jonny Wilkinson and have seen the commitment that he had. When I played with him, he was pretty much at the height of his powers, but the way he dedicated himself to his craft was unbelievable and I learnt a lot from him.”
#5 Thierry Dusautoir: 56 Tests as captain of France
“From my time in France I’d have to say the French captain, Thierry Dusautoir. He’s not just an amazing player, but you can see the way he rallies his troops and how he performs in those big games. He’s someone I really admire.”
#6 Jonah Lomu: The greatest All Black ever
“He’s someone that stood out because even when I didn’t play rugby I knew who he was. You just have to go back and watch some highlights of him to see how crazy what he did was. You don’t see players these days running through ten blokes on the way to the tryline.”
#7 Aaron Cruden: 37 Tests for the All Blacks and two consecutive Super Rugby titles with the Chiefs
“He’s just a little magician. He’s got the highest winning percentage for a number 10 in an All Blacks jersey. He might not get the praise he deserves, but you’ve just gotta look at that. And he led the Chiefs back-to-back when they probably weren’t expected to achieve that.”
#8 Nehe Milner-Skudder: Equal top try-scorer at RWC 2015
“What he did earlier this year and at the World Cup was really special, especially from where he started the year.”
#9 Malakai Fekitoa: 13 Tests and four tries for the All Blacks
“He’s another young bloke coming up and he’s like Milner-Skudder – when I’m finished I’ll be sitting there with my kids saying ‘I played with that guy’.”
#10 Kieran Foran: 20 Tests for the Kiwis and an NRL Premiership with Manly
“I’d definitely throw Kieran Foran in there. My halves would be Kieran Foran and Johnathan Thurston – no doubt. Foran plays like another forward and those are the types of players you want to play with, especially being a forward myself.”
#11 Johnathan Thurston: Four-time Dally M Medal winner and future Immortal.
“JT’s just a freak!”
#12 Quade Cooper: 58 Tests and 8 tries for the Wallabies
“You just have to watch some of his highlights videos on the football field to realise what a talent he is. He’s another guy who can just create something out of nothing and I don’t think gets the credit he deserves.”
#13 Mitchell Pearce: Won a premiership alongside SBW in 2013
“I know he is in at 14, but Mitchell Pearce would be close, I might have him on the bench.”