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The humble star

International Sports

Sonny Bill WilliamsSonny Bill WilliamsFew sportsmen have got close to matching Sonny Bill Williams' achievements; a double World Cup winner with the All Blacks, a Super Rugby champion with the Chiefs, NRL titles with the Roosters, not to mention success on the World Sevens circuit, an Olympics appearance, and a New Zealand heavyweight boxing belt in his spare time.

But as he plots to add a Test victory over the Lions to his unparalleled CV, Williams remains "humble as hell and one of the bros," according to his team-mates.

On Wednesday, Williams lines up for the Blues against the British and Irish Lions, as the Auckland-based franchise look to launch a pre-emptive strike before the Test series.

For Williams, a devout Muslim, the game comes in the middle of Ramadan, with the 31-year-old fasting for up to 10 hours a day.

"We're lucky that we only fast for nine to 10 hours in this part of the world because of the daylight," says the 33-times capped All Black.

"I find the fasting easiest with footy-based training, and I just push back the weights until I break the fast. The first week of fasting is the toughest and then after that you start to get used to it."

Speaking to Williams and a number of his team-mates and friends, it is clear his religion underpins his character.

The New Zealand Rugby Union recently allowed a "conscientious objection" to Williams wearing certain sponsors logos, as he objects to the marketing of banks, alcohol and gambling companies because of his beliefs.

"He's really religious and he sticks by it. We support him wholeheartedly, and his choices off the field," says Blues number eight Steven Luatua, who is on his way to Bristol next season.

"The way he stands up for his convictions and what he believes in, a lot of us could learn from that, and a lot of us feed off him.

"I do believe religion really helps with the rigour and discipline of succeeding in sport. For a lot of us from religious backgrounds, we've got to this point because of our faith, because of our beliefs.

"So for him to display that on an international stage, to display who he is, not change for anyone, I think that's all credit to him."

Williams' dedication and commitment to his craft - whatever it may be - is a recurring theme, but his faith enables him to keep a balanced perspective on life, according to Blues wing Matt Duffie.

"At times rugby players can get quite caught up in the rugby fishbowl," says Duffie. "But his experience, faith and family means he can keep things in perspective. That doesn't take away the fact he is out there trying to win everything, because he's very competitive, but [keeping perspective] is one of his great qualities."

However, Williams remains the ultimate competitor, and after his Rio Olympics Sevens experience ended in long-term injury, he is on his way back to top form and fitness, and in the frame to start in the centres against the Lions come the Test series.

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