CHRISTCHURCH - Recalled Irish centre Gordon D’Arcy knows he will have his hands full trying to keep a much-improved Sonny Bill Williams quiet in the second Test against the All Blacks.
The 32-year-old will have the job of marking the former rugby league star after being restored to the starting line-up —- in place of the injured Keith Earls — to combine in the midfield with Brian O’Driscoll for the 48th time in the Christchurch Test.
D’Arcy, 15kg lighter than the 108kg Williams, accepts that he and O’Driscoll will need to be at their best to stop what Ireland’s defensive coach Les Kiss calls a “huge beast”.
“He is a seriously class act. He has improved phenomenally,” said Kiss.
“Brian and I have our job cut out. One of the things we’ve talked about is one-on-one tackles — that’s something we’re going to live and die by.”
D’Arcy says Ireland were conscious of the need not to over-commit themselves or run the risk of Williams wreaking havoc by getting balls away under pressure. “We can’t be putting two or three people into a tackle and breakdown, particularly if you’ve got guys like Sonny Bill who can offload when he has two guys hanging off him.”
Kiss, a former Australian rugby league international, says Williams’ form for the Chiefs had shown he had finally made the adjustments to his game necessary to complete the transition from league.
“He’s come on in leaps and bounds. He plays the way New Zealand like their second-fives (inside centres) to play. It’ll be interesting to see if he hangs around,” he said.
Aside from D’Arcy, Ireland have made three other changes to their side beaten 42-10 in the first Test and will start the match with 10 players from the Heineken Cup champions Leinster on the field.