AS A COMEDY duo, Sonny Bill Williams and Ma’a Nonu need some polishing.
The All Blacks are busom buddies and often like to sit together at press briefings, chime in on answers meant for the other man and give out fashion tips.
“Where did you get your jeans?” they ask as I take a seat beside them on the seventh floor of the Heritage Hotel in Auckland.
“The Gap, in Dundrum,” is my proud answer but glancing at the faded grey, creased jeans (purchased on sale), I know they have won the opening joust.
Nonu then gives his best impersonation of an Irishman.
“Tanks a million,” he remarks, dropping the ‘h’ and smiling all the while.
However, once talk turns to the upcoming challenge Ireland are likely to pose, the game faces come on.
And, as a centre partnership, the duo are fearsome.
“The Irish are playing some good rugby,” says Chiefs centre Williams. “They had both Irish teams (Ulster and Leinster) in the Heineken Cup Final.” He added:
It’s going to be a tough challenge. Hopefully we can play a style of footie that is entertaining but a winning style as well.
“It all depends on the weather, first and foremost, but the boys would like to play that running style rugby. We want to get the win first but obviously want to play attractive footie.”
Williams: “They’ve got a good full-back running around.” (©INPHO/Photosport/Andrew Cornaga)
Nonu, who plays his Super Rugby for the Blues, has played five times against Ireland but is still surprised to hear they have yet to defeat New Zealand.
“Really?” he asks.
“They’ve been trying for a long time and have come close at times,” Nonu adds. “In 2006 they pushed us hard twice and again in 2008. They were in the lead (in the Hamilton Test in ’06) but then we climbed back.”
No laurel resting here
Nonu, like All Black colleague Brad Thorn, headed to Japan days after he helped his side to their first World Cup win since 1987.
He played three months with the Ricoh Black Rams before joining up with the Blues in Auckland for a shortened pre-season. The franchise are currently bottom of the Super Rugby table.
“I’ve been trucking along,” said Nonu. “It has been a hard season but you have to get along with it really and try to find a way to play good, even if it is not going well.”
The 30-year-old recalled his brief stint at gaelic games back in 2008, when he tried out football and hurling, as ‘good fun’ but has ruled out making a charge at an All-Ireland.
Williams, a former rugby league star, busied himself with boxing in the rugby off-season.
In February, he defeated American boxer Clarence Tillman III to take the vacant New Zealand Heavyweight Championship.
Williams said, “At the start it was just dabbling with it but now it has got a little bit more serious.” He added:
It is pretty hard to do when I’m a full-time rugby player, doing a bit of boxing on the side, but my last fight was petty satisfying.
“I was training seven or eight weeks for that. I fought a pretty good fighter too but knocked him out in the first round. He hadn’t been stopped before, so it was pretty good.”
Boxing, hurling, rugby league and, I’ll admit, broad comedy skills. Pretty talented blokes.
Not bad at the rugby either.
*You can follow all the latest news, comments and goings on from the Irish camp by following @patmccarry on Twitter and by regularly checking in with TheScore.ie.