Blanco urges NRL star to return to Australia

The president of France’s provincial rugby competition has urged runaway rugby league international Sonny Bill Williams to finish his season in Australia before moving to France, reports said Friday.

The New Zealand Test back-rower caused a commotion in Australia’s National Rugby League when he walked out on a five-year contract with the Canterbury Bulldogs and flew to France last weekend, reportedly to sign for Toulon.

Canterbury, with the NRL’s support, are attempting to legally enforce the 22-year-old’s contract and prevent a feared mass exit of the game’s elite stars to cashed-up European clubs.

Serge Blanco, whose Ligue Nationale de Rugby controls the Top 14 and second division competitions in France, said it was important players honoured their contracts before relocating to France.

“In my view, (Williams) should finish his season with his club in Australia and then come to France,” Blanco told The Sydney Morning Herald from Paris on Friday.

“I find it funny and bizarre that a player would break his contract in the middle of the season to go somewhere else.

“There is a rule in the French competition that a player can finish his season in Australia and then come to France midway through the season.”

NRL chief executive David Gallop has sought direct intervention from European rugby authorities – as well as the Australian justice system -to force Williams to return to the NRL.

The International Rugby Board’s head of communications Greg Thomas said the matter was the concern of the Federation Francaise de Rugby, and not the game’s ruling body.

“At a basic level, we don’t believe anybody should break their contract,” Thomas told the newspaper.

“We have heard from David about this matter, but it is really something for the French authorities.” Blanco, a former Les Bleus fullback with 93 Test caps, said Toulon did not consult him about Williams’s reported recruitment.

Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal has insisted Williams is yet to sign with the club, although, according to the newspaper, competition rules state a player cannot be signed after a mid-July deadline.

The Herald said it understands Williams signed with Toulon early last month, after club coach Tana Umaga scouted him in Australia and the club has since helped Williams to obtain a French work permit.

“No-one is in the know at the moment,” Blanco said. “I don’t know Sonny Bill Williams, but in the last few days I have heard his name a lot.

“I have received no official demand from the Toulon club. I am waiting to see what will happen.”

Sapa-AFP –

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