All Black coach defends Williams’ special treatment

New Zealand All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has defended the NZRU’s special treatment of code-hopper Sonny Bill Williams by fast tracking him back into the All Blacks.

Sonny Bill Williams won the Rugby World Cup in 2011 with the All Blacks but after helping the Chiefs win their first Super Rugby title in 2012 he returned to Australia’s National Rugby League.

Williams has now agreed to return to Rugby Union as the Rugby World Cup is a year away and the New Zealand Rugby Union have given him an exemption of the rule that forces players to play domestic NZ rugby before being eligible to play for the All Blacks.

The move will allow Williams to be available for All Black selection for their end of year tour to the United States and of Europe even though he has not played domestic rugby in NZ since 2012.

“The reason why we want to take him on the end-of-year tour is because there’s very limited Test matches between now and the World Cup,” Hansen told RadioSport.

“If he was to be in a successful Chiefs (Super Rugby) side next year and they were playing in the final, for example, then he wouldn’t be available for some of those Tests.

“It becomes difficult then to get him back into the ways of the All Blacks.”

Hansen said that even though Williams has not played union in two years he is a proven performer in rugby union.

“You’ve got a quality, world-class player at your disposal and our job is to pick the best team. “

“He’s going to be one of the best players, so our job is to pick him,” he said.

Twenty-nine-year-old Williams won the last of his 19 All Black caps in August 2012 in the Rugby Championship.

“He can watch a game of rugby now and understand it, which is massively important when you want to come back across,” said Hansen.

Williams return will give the All Blacks great depth in the centres and he will join Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Malakai Fekitoa and Ryan Crotty in the battle for selection.

The All Black coach has denied that rushing Williams back into the All Blacks will deny up and coming talent such as Fekitoa and Crotty opportunites by saying that injuries will ensure everyone has a chance.

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