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Chiefs could be forced to wait longer for SBW

It's anyone's guess where Sonny Bill Williams will be playing next season

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Article Published: Tuesday 8 October 2013

The Chiefs may have to wait a while longer for Sonny Bill Williams' return to Super Rugby as he has now made himself available for the Rugby League World Cup.

Williams is understood to have told New Zealand Rugby League coach Stephen Kearney that he was unavailable for the World Cup which led to speculation that he may be on his way back to Rugby Union.

Kearney named a squad for the Rugby League World Cup without Williams yesterday.

However now the New Zealand coach says that he has been told that Sonny Bill Williams has made himself available for the upcoming rugby league World Cup.

Williams was apparently unavailable "due to other commitments" but reports have now emerged which suggest that Williams has pproached Kearney and informed him he'd changed his mind.

New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) have since released a statement confirming Williams' availability.

"Late on Tuesday, Sonny Bill Williams expressed his desire to play for the Kiwis in the Rugby League World Cup," Kearney said.

"Our thinking had always been that if Sonny was available, he would be part of the team."

"We are now exploring options around Sonny's possible inclusion in the tournament. This would require ratification by the World Cup organisers."

It was originally thought that Williams wanted to play in the rugby league world cup as it would give him the opportunity to become a world cup winner in two codes.

It was also expected that if Williams played in the Rugby League World cup he would not play for the Chiefs until 2015 and possibly play for the Roosters in Sydney in 2014.

The move has angered many in Rugby League as Kearney named a 24 man squad and if Williams is included the coach will have to drop a player who has been told he will be playing in the world cup.

Sonny Bill is expected to be back in Rugby Union and available for the All Blacks for the 2015 Rugby World Cup and for New Zealand at the Olympics in 2016 for the Sevens squad.

It has been reported that the New Zealand Rugby Union have offered him a three year deal and are hoping to have him back in Rugby Union next year.


Kearney on Wednesday said Melbourne Storm backrower Tohu Harris had been cut from the squad and Williams had been added in his place.

World Cup organizers have approved the move, although late squad changes are usually only permitted in the case of injury.

Kearney is now likely to face severe criticism over his handling of Williams' selection and his cynical treatment of the 21-year-old Harris, who has played only one test for New Zealand.

The New Zealand Rugby League offered to allow Harris to travel to Britain with the Kiwis as "a development player" but the Melbourne Storm rejected the offer.

"It's been a tough situation, but Sonny brings things to the group that we couldn't ignore," Kearney said. "He has had time since his NRL grand final win to clear his head and he wants to represent the Kiwis on the world stage.

"He missed our 2008 World Cup win and his inclusion will be a great asset in trying to repeat that success this year. It's not only his footballing ability, but also what he brings off the field which will benefit the team."

Kearney said Harris "handled the situation as well as anyone could.

"It was a conversation no coach would like to have, but he's a terrific young man and I'm sure he'll have many more opportunities to pull on the black jersey. It's been a unique set of circumstances for all involved, but for now our focus is getting set to defend the World Cup with the team we have."

Kearney's public expression of sympathy for Harris is unlikely to lessen anger in New Zealand at his treatment of a talented young player and his apparent pandering to the wayward Williams.

Williams is a talented player who has won two titles in Australia's National Rugby League, a Super Rugby title with the Hamilton-based Chiefs and a Rugby World Cup with the All Blacks. But he is also seen to place his own personal ambitions ahead of the interests of his teams.

He walked out on a contract with the Bulldogs in the NRL in 2008 to play rugby union for Toulon in France and was subsequently banned from the Australian league for five years.

He left Toulon to return to New Zealand but stayed only one year with the Christchurch-based Crusaders in Super Rugby before leaving for the Chiefs. He played 19 tests for the All Blacks through the 2011 World Cup, then quit to take up a lucrative short-term contract in Japan.

Williams failed to see out that contract because of injury and headed back to the NRL as soon as his ban had elapsed. He collected his second NRL title last weekend with the Sydney Roosters but has since refused to reveal whether he will stay in rugby league or return to rugby union.

Williams has also carved out a small career in professional boxing. He is the reigning New Zealand professional heavyweight champion, although he has fought only journeymen to date.

There are rumours about a boxing match some time in January 2014.

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