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23rd Jun 2017

Sky Sports simply HAVE to put a player mic on Ben Te’o after these comments

Cover your ears Sonny Bill

Patrick McCarry

To say Ben Te’o and Sonny Bill Williams have history would be an understatement.

There is no festering bad blood but there remains that shuddering, bouncing image of Te’o laying a massive hit on Williams when both men were earning their bread in rugby league, just over four years ago.

Back then, Te’o’s Rabbitohs were up against Williams’ Roosters and the hit got the former Leinster centre up on report. It was also said to be the tackle that convinced then-Leinster coach Matt O’Connor to lure him to Ireland.

It was Te’o’s former flatmate, one Israel Folau, that put him on the road to union. Four years on and the Aucklander, and England international, will wear the Lions No.12 jersey.

Te’o will be one of the Lions midfield tasked with shutting down the direct running and offloading game of Williams [the All Blacks’ 12]. On The Hard Yards rugby podcast [from 29:45 below], two of Te’o’s former Leinster teammates offered a clear idea of how he will try to unsettle his opposite number.

It certainly makes you wish Sky Sports could work their ‘Player Mic’ magic again.

Former Ireland international Kevin McLaughlin said:

“He’s going to bring that rugby league vibe to it. You saw it last weekend when he was mouthing at the opposition.

“He’ll be following Williams around for the whole game, he’ll be mouthing at him, he’ll be trying to wind him up and he’ll be in his face. I think that’s the bit of rugby league culture in him but it will be a fascinating battle.”

Isaac Boss points out that Williams will be Lions outhalf Owen Farrell’s man to tackle in defence, quite often, but Te’o will be keeping his eyes peeled for the inside-outside balls. “He relishes these battles,” said Boss, “and he would like to go head-to-head with him a bit more.

“Ben likes to put the hit in but he’s got to avoid tat temptation, to try to pop out to get that hit on Sonny Bill because he could expose him.”

Of course, there is more to Te’o’s game than trash-talk and big hits – evidenced by his midfield displays at the end of his Leinster career and his “finisher” role for England – but McLaughlin will be trying his best to lip-read during this First Test.

“He mightn’t be encouraging his teammates,” McLaughlin remarked, “but he’ll be mouthing at the opposition, for sure… Maybe it’s a bit of an Aussie thing – in cricket, it happens with sledging. You’re in their face and you’re trying to make it uncomfortable.

“If that’s what makes him stop Sonny Bill getting an offload away at the weekend. we’ll take it.”

The full chat below is certainly worth the listen…