Hansen labels SBW the greatest athlete he has ever coached

Former New Zealand coach Steve Hansen admits to being in awe of the athleticism of Sonny Bill Williams who stands out for him in a 24-year coaching career.

Hansen labels SBW’ greatest athlete’ he has coached

Hansen said that while Richie McCaw was the best rugby player he had ever had in his charge, Williams was a ‘freak of nature’ as an athlete.

“The greatest rugby player I’ve coached was (Richie) McCaw but Sonny would be the best athlete I’ve coached from a pure athlete sense,” Hansen said. “He’s a freak of nature.”

The former All Blacks mentor has backed Williams to make an impact as he switches codes again to take up a Super League career with the Toronto Wolfpack.

Hansen believes any professional sports team would benefit from the presence of Williams.

“Sonny is 35 now but he’s been an active athlete for a long time and he really looks after himself. He’s a freak of nature,” Hansen said.

“There is no reason, as long as he stays injury-free, that he won’t do the job. He had been out of league for a while before coming back and going to Toronto, but he’s just such a good athlete.

“As he has got older, he has matured. His training habits and his off-field habits are world-class now. He will be a good role model for the young fellas in the club.”

A lot to learn in rugby league

Hansen believes there is a lot union players can learn from the league code, and said that Williams took a lot from the sport that gave him his start.

Williams began his career in rugby league, and played as a second-row forward over seven seasons in two spells in the National Rugby League (NRL), with the Canterbury Bulldogs and Sydney Roosters.

“There are a lot of similarities (between rugby league and union). You have that rushed defence and a shorter offside line than we have so you can learn things from that,” Hansen said.

“They are two different games but the fundamentals are the same.”

 Williams will play his first match as the Wolfpack start their Super League campaign this week. It will be his third stint in Rugby League.

The two-time Rugby World Cup winner has also boxed professionally seven times, winning all of his heavyweight bouts. He was the New Zealand Professional Boxing Association (NZPBA) Heavyweight Champion and World Boxing Association (WBA) International Heavyweight Champion, before being forced to vacate the belts after going back to rugby.

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