British & Irish Lions

We need to learn how to stop ‘monster’ Sonny Bill Williams, says British & Irish Lions’ Rhys Webb

The Lions won’t panic after losing to the Auckland Blues but understand more than ever the need to stop ‘monster’ centre

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 June, 2017, 9:41am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 June, 2017, 10:14pm

The British and Irish Lions won’t panic after losing to the Auckland Blues but understand more than ever the need to stop “monster” centre Sonny Bill Williams, scrum half Rhys Webb said.

Williams inspired the Blues to a 22-16 win over the Lions at Eden Park on Wednesday but the tourists were vastly improved on the side that scratched out a 13-7 victory in their opening match against the Provincial Barbarians.

Webb said the Lions felt they did enough to beat the Blues but let themselves down by conceding too many penalties and making poor decisions at crunch moments.

“Our discipline was poor and we’ve given away a lot of penalties in our first few games,” the Welshman said.

“We can’t afford to do that against the All Blacks because they’ll punish us ... (but) they’re easy fixes.

“We’ve taken a hit but the boys aren’t going to hit the panic button after one bad result.”

Webb said two-time World Cup winner Williams was a crucial difference between the sides.

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The former rugby league star scored a try of his own and set up Ihaia West’s match-winner as he made a triumphant return from injury.

Webb said shutting down Williams’ ability to offload in the tackle would be key to stopping the All Blacks in the three-test series against the world champions.

“Sonny Bill’s a monster, isn’t he?” he said.

“Everyone knows what he can do. We know he’s going to be a threat in a couple of weeks. He’s a special athlete and individual. He’s a world-class player.”

Webb conceded halting Williams was easier said than done, saying the imposing Aucklander was difficult to tackle.

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“If you go too high he might sit you down or bounce you. Maybe we need to put three or four men on him,” he said.

Coach Warren Gatland said he would continue to rotate his 41-man squad for the Lions’ next match against the undefeated, top-of-the-table Canterbury Crusaders on Saturday.

He expected another intense match, saying playing New Zealand’s Super Rugby sides was “great preparation” for the test series.

“Saturday is going to be another tough encounter, but the players will have gelled for a little bit longer so I expect to see more improvement,” he said.

Dan Biggar (head) and Jared Payne (calf) were forced off with injuries against the Blues but Gatland said they should be fit to face the Crusaders if needed.