Sonny Bill Williams gives RWC gold medal away to stranger
LONDON (AP) Sonny Bill Williams received a gold medal for winning the Rugby World Cup on Saturday, and gave it away moments later to a stranger.
As the All Blacks were walking a lap of honor around Twickenham, a kid – aged no more than seven or eight, Williams said – jumped over the hoardings and ran on to the field.
A security guard hit the kid with a full-on tackle.
”I felt sorry for him,” Williams said. ”If it was my little brother or a cousin, I would have given that security guard a hiding.”
So Williams went over to the stands and gave the kid his medal.
”This will be a night he remembers, hopefully,” he said with a smile.
Williams’ generosity knows no bounds. He offered two semifinals tickets to a UK aid agency to pass on to Syrian migrants, and at fulltime in that game, gave sympathy and a hand-up to South Africa opponent Jesse Kriel, an act of sportsmanship that went viral.
But he’s not an All Black for the benefit of migrants and rivals. He was part of a tactical substitution at halftime that proved to be inspired in the final against Australia.
Conrad Smith, who has paired with Ma’a Nonu in the centers in a world-record 62 tests for only five losses, was replaced at halftime by Williams.
Williams has usually had to wait until the fourth quarter to make appearances, but the reason why he was sent in earlier than usual quickly became apparent.
With his first touch of the ball, he offloaded for winger Nehe Milner-Skudder to pierce the Australia line. In the same move with his second touch, he stood in a triple tackle, and passed behind to Nonu. The dreadlocked center caught the Australians unawares, slipping into space then past Tevita Kuridrani. As the crowd roared at his run, he just beat Wallabies winger Drew Mitchell to the line.
That made the score 21-3, a gap that would soon become just wide enough after the Wallabies launched a comeback.
”I just closed my eyes and threw it. Nah, I saw him,” Williams quipped. ”He did his magic, and we were lucky to get a try there and a few points ahead.”
Nonu said: ”That was a brilliant pass.”
Did he think he could go all 45 meters?
”No, I was surprised to get through,” he said, with typical humbleness. ”Just tried my best there.”
The match was expected to be the last in an All Blacks jersey for Nonu (103 caps), and Smith (94), who will take up club contracts shortly. Nonu was signed with Toulon for two years, and Smith with Pau.
”This week, the focus was putting everything out there, especially in terms of what was happening afterwards with players leaving,” Nonu said. ”We didn’t want that to get in the way; our main motivation was to play for each other.”
In personal terms, Nonu thanked his family ”for being the cornerstone of my career,” the inspiration provided by fellow departees Richie McCaw and Dan Carter, and ”especially my midfield partner Conrad. We’ve played a lot together and might not play again together. We’ll probably see each other, and go against each other in December and January (in the French Top 14).”
Meanwhile, Williams will carry on, trying to fill their boots. Next year, the former rugby league star is heading into the New Zealand Sevens team to have a shot at an Olympic gold medal in Rio de Janeiro, and will become available for the All Blacks during the Rugby Championship.
He said there was an unspoken message among the team this past week to send off Nonu and Co. in style. The Australians almost ruined their plans.
”Their comeback was always going to come,” Williams said. ”They’re quality, and we did well to hang on.
”That’s when you know a team is more than a team, it’s a brotherhood. You bust your (backside), you cover, tackle, you just push that little bit extra because you’re doing it for each other. I’m pleased for all the brothers, especially the boys who are leaving.
”It’s a pretty happy dressing room back there, but more importantly, it’s a pretty happy country back home.”