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SBW finds rugby more of a mental test

Sonny Bill Williams finds rugby union more mentally testing but he's relishing what he says are greater physical demands in rugby league.
SBW finds rugby more of a mental test
by AAP

SYDNEY, Oct 29 AAP - Sonny Bill Williams finds rugby union more mentally testing but he's relishing what he says are greater physical demands in rugby league.

The Kiwi superstar has also revealed how his own halftime words helped him to turn a poor start to last month's NRL grand final into a premiership-winning second half for the Roosters.

Williams has been both admired and reviled for his code-hopping ways, having won a Rugby World Cup with the All Blacks, a Super Rugby championship with the Chiefs, plus two NRL grand finals and is headed back to union again in time for the 2015 World Cup after helping in the Roosters' title defence in 2014.

The dual international's assessment of the two codes is influenced by his very different roles as a midfield back in union and as a forward in league, the sport he got started in.

"League is much more demanding physically. But, mentally, rugby is more testing," Williams told The Guardian in the UK, where he's involved in New Zealand's Rugby League World Cup title defence.

He quickly became acquainted with the different demands when he played outside English fly-half Jonny Wilkinson at Toulon, the French rugby club he joined after walking out on NRL club Canterbury five years ago.

"I had to help the No.10. He's calling the game and you have to look for space and defensive weaknesses," the 28-year-old said.

"You're always thinking. But in league I play in the forwards and love it."

Williams opened up about his struggles in last month's NRL decider at ANZ Stadium before his blazing midfield bursts inspired the Roosters' come from behind win.

"I could not have had a worse start in the grand final," he said.

"I dropped a couple of balls which led to tries and then I went in at half-time and my mental strength blocked everything out.

"I was really low on confidence but I said to the boys: 'I'm gonna run hard and work as hard as I can. I expect you to do the same.'

"This came from me, a guy who's had the worst half of his year, telling the boys that this is what I was going to do. So I went out in the second half and did exactly that and we won. I put pressure on myself to do it."

Williams credited his third sport - professional boxing - for giving him the mental strength to push through such tough times.


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