The All Blacks supported Sonny Bill Williams Star Center as they claimed an unprecedented World Cup rugby triple in Japan but dropped 31-man team veteran player Owen Franks. It came as a major surprise for fans to see 108-Test Franks getting the axe, although the defending champions also had no room for midfielder Ngani Laumape or returning Liam Squire. However, they kept their faith in fighting back with Ben Smith as the team is currently aiming for a third consecutive World Cup title and fourth overall. Together with captain Kieran Read and lock Sam Whitelock, Williams is among a group of players looking to obtain a personal treble in Japan.
Four years earlier, nine team participants enjoyed victory at Britain’s last rugby showpiece, while 19 are World Cup debutants. The team features 1,195 Test caps jointly and has eight players over the age of 30. Coach Steve Hansen said it was “a great task” to win three championships in a row. After an injury-plagued season, Williams, the squad’s eldest member at 34, challenged his doubters as he played a main part in this month’s 36-0 win over the Auckland Wallabies.
He is now studying for a coaching certificate and another world award might be enough to convince him to call time on a notable career that involves two NRL rugby league championships and wins in seven heavyweight boxing matches. Hansen said two-time World Cup champion Franks had fallen victim to match changes as they attempt to add more versatility.
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