Star player taken off with suspected neck injury in quarter-final thumping.
New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney insisted Sonny Bill Williams was taken off as a precaution after he suffered a neck injury in the Kiwis’ thumping 40-4 World Cup quarter-final victory over Scotland.
The defending champions ran in eight tries to Scotland’s one — Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Bryson Goodwin helping themselves to doubles while Jesse Bromwich, Frank Pritchard, Shaun Johnson and Manu Vatuvei also got in on the act at Leeds’s Headingley ground on Friday.
The match got off to the worse possible start for New Zealand however as Williams went down inside the first minute following an Adam Walker tackle, and while he continued until the half-hour mark and set up tries for Goodwin and Johnson, he was not risked for the last 50 minutes.
Kearney was quick to play down the injury but he admitted Williams will be assessed during the week ahead of a semi-final clash against either England or France at London’s Wembley Stadium.
“All the players who came off were taken off as a precaution because we had got ourselves into a position where we were able to do that,”said Kearney.
“Now we will assess them over the next week.
“It was a pretty good performance because it has been a tough week of preparing for the match.
“Everyone expected us to get the result, so the lads have done very well in preparing properly and completing the job.
“We knew Scotland would throw a lot at us early on but we handled it and now we turn our attentions to watching the England versus France match.”
After a fiery start from Scotland, who almost scored the first try of the match through Adam Scott after Vatuvei had slipped, it was Goodwin who opened the floodgates after a smart offload from Williams.
Bromwich then barrelled his way over before 20-year-old Tuivasa-Sheck finished off an overlap in the corner.
The Kiwis were relentless and both Pritchard and Johnson went over before Williams was withdrawn, leaving the Bravehearts 26-0 down at the interval.
Tuivasa-Sheck added to his burgeoning reputation on 50 minutes with a fine second try of the match and sixth of the tournament, bursting the length of the field down the right touchline.
“I’m just still loving the buzz of the World Cup,” he said.
“I’m happy with team, credit to all the boys — now we’re looking forward to the next game. My tries all came off of the work from the big boys at the front.”
Vatuvei ploughed his way over for try number seven but, after a fine pass from captain Danny Brough, Scotland got on the scoreboard thanks to Alex Hurst, who dotted down in the corner.
Goodwin added his second to complete the rout but after contesting their first-ever World Cup quarter-final, Scotland coach Steve McCormack urged his side to continue their development.
“Everything about this tournament has been excellent for Scotland but now it’s important we move forward from here,” he said.
“We got to the quarter-finals for the first time in our history and we the lads have given everything in this tournament, I’m very proud of them.
“We expected New Zealand to be that good — they are a world-class team and I think it will take a good side to beat them.”