Wellington - A week away from the All Blacks' opening Rugby Championship match doubts remain about the availability of Sonny Bill Williams as his new Japanese employers hold off on releasing him.
Although Williams has signed on with the Panasonic Wild Knights, the All Blacks are asking he be released to play Australia in Sydney next Saturday and Auckland a week later as cover for injured centre Conrad Smith.
A week ago, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said all that remained was to tidy up the paperwork with Panasonic, but now he says the Japanese club wants Williams to undergo a medical examination.
They want to be sure there are not lingering concerns about the fitness of their prized signing after he played a central role in the Chiefs championship-winning Super Rugby campaign this year.
"Panasonic just want him to have some medicals today and that's fine, that's par for the course, and he's gone and done that," Hansen said as Williams sat out a light training run against the Auckland squad on Friday.
"Once we finalise all that we will get the red light or the green light. He's sore, but all those Chiefs' boys are sore ... he's had a big season, he's played about 20 games and played pretty well so it's not surprising."
If Williams is not allowed to play then the All Blacks are likely to start Ma'a Nonu at inside centre alongside either Tamati Ellison or Ben Smith.
Meanwhile, the good news for Hansen was confirmation backrower Kieran Read was fit to play after being sidelined since July 7 when he fractured a rib when the Crusaders beat the Chiefs in a regular season match.