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SBW won't harm Kiwis culture: Kearney

Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney doesn't expect Sonny Bill Williams' belated callup for the World Cup to impact negatively on team culture.
SBW won't harm Kiwis culture: Kearney
by AAP

WELLINGTON, Oct 10 AAP - Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney doesn't expect Sonny Bill Williams' belated callup for the World Cup to impact negatively on team culture.

In fact, he's predicting the opposite.

Star second-rower Williams was shoehorned into the New Zealand squad on Wednesday at the expense of Melbourne Storm forward Tohu Harris, who was named in the original group the day before.

Kearney described his phone call to inform Harris as "difficult" but one that had to be made to include Williams, who had made a sudden backflip on his original decision to be unavailable for the Kiwis.

Kearney is adamant the other 23 players in the Kiwis squad will welcome Williams' inclusion.

If he believed otherwise, he would have rejected Williams' late bid which came in the wake of helping lead the Sydney Roosters to the NRL title.

"If I thought for one moment that Sonny was going to harm the culture that we have within the Kiwi group, the decision would have been easy and it would have been a no," Kearney told Radio LiveSport.

"I'm looking at the Roosters and watching how all of a sudden they've gone from finishing 13th (in 2012) to winning the grand final the following year.

"We only get a six-seven week window to get that from Sonny.

"This was an opportunity to really tap into what he can offer us off the field as well as what he brings in terms of his playing ability on the field."

Kearney says Williams' influence had clearly rubbed off positively on Roosters team-mates such as forwards Sam Moa, Frank-Paul Nu'uausala and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, who are all in the Kiwis squad.

He says the ongoing success of the two-time Super Rugby champion Chiefs was also testament to the impact Williams had made there in 2012.

Kearney admits he was surprised when he listened to phone messages from Williams and his manager Khoder Nasser after landing in Brisbane on Tuesday.

He says a subsequent phone conversation with Williams made it clear the 28-year-old was genuine in his reasons to play for the Kiwis.

"I've had a pretty good relationship with Sonny for quite some time.

"I knew from the tone of his voice and how he was talking, what it meant to him. Sometimes you've got to act on your instinct and your gut feeling."

Kearney compared his phone call to Harris to the one he made to Benji Marshall earlier this year, when he informed the veteran playmaker he was losing the Kiwis captaincy.

"He (Harris) is a kid with wonderful character. He's a special young man and he took it as well as he could have."




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