Sydney - Sonny Bill Williams is feeling the pressure and plans to soon make an
announcement on his future now that his grandmother is out of hospital.
Williams was absent from the All Blacks victory parades this week as his grandmother, who he calls "nan", was in hospital.
"Nans back home thanks for all your prayers.. Now manager putting me under the pump!" he tweeted this morning.
Questions have arisen as to whether Williams, 26, will
continue playing with the All Blacks, return to rugby league or head
All Blacks coach-in-waiting Steve Hansen said Williams
was "huge" in the team's future plans and tipped him to become one of
the world's best players.
That's if he stays.
Hansen, who soaked up the Wellington rain and a massive
reception for the Rugby World Cup holders in the city on Wednesday, is awaiting
Williams' decision on his immediate future, as is the New Zealand Rugby
The NZRU has an offer on the table and is awaiting a
response from Williams' manager, Khoder Nasser. It is expected in coming
days as Super Rugby franchises finalise their squads, with coach Dave
Rennie's Chiefs seemingly shading the Blues as frontrunners for his
The 1.91m, 110kg giant played all seven World Cup matches
for the All Blacks, four of them off the bench, and logged 329 minutes,
more than the likes of Piri Weepu and Keven Mealamu.
And Hansen remains a big fan.
"I think he's huge. He's shown at this tournament what a
great player he can be and we need to remember he's only in his infancy
as a rugby player. He's only going to get better and better," Hansen
"He'll be the best player in the world in a number of
positions if he wants to be. His value to the All Blacks and New Zealand
rugby is immense, so hopefully he stays and that would be great if he
Hansen wouldn't be pressed on his gut feeling on Williams staying, or chasing greener pastures.
Hansen said no pressure had been applied to Williams in recent weeks to persuade him to stretch a 14-Test career into 2012.
"It's not about leaning on him. He's got to do what's
right for him and his career. We'll just let him go through the process.
He's got a very good manager in Khoder and he'll work it out. All I can
say is we'd love him to stay, he's a great player."
NZRU chief executive Steve Tew was hopeful of a response
from Williams soon, but acknowledged his current "family health issues".
"He's got our offer and we'd love to keep him; he knows that. We'll just give him some space to make a decision."
Meanwhile, the prospect of Williams and Nasser stablemate
Quade Cooper being shopped around NRL clubs has reportedly angered
player agents across the Tasman.
Nasser is not accredited with the NRL as a player agent and therefore technically unable to negotiate with clubs.
Accreditated Players Agents Scheme operations manager Neil Cadigan told The Australian
newspaper he was unaware of the rumours that Nasser had been speaking
to clubs and said he was happy to investigate if anyone had any concrete
"Nobody has provided me with any information that Khoder
Nasser is representing them (Williams and Cooper) in talks with clubs,"
he said. "Until somebody comes to us with some evidence, there's not
much we can do."
An increase in the NRL salary cap in 2013 would certainly help Williams' prospects there.
Rugby league commentator Matthew Johns believes the sport
should pursue Cooper and Williams, saying Cooper's rough treatment
during the Rugby World Cup could be a catalyst for change.
"Those rugby types who wanted to praise Quade and then
rip into him really need to have a good look at themselves and the game
they are involved with," he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
"To make Quade a whipping boy for their terrible displays
is a disgrace. The kid was left posted. Quade and Sonny are drawcards
in either code and any money that clubs spend on those blokes would come
back in marketing and merchandising in a minute."
It's not yet a year since Williams made his test debut against England at Twickenham.
Since then he stamped himself as a handy test No12, with
his freakish offloading ability a weapon for the All Blacks. Latterly he
was tried on the wing with some success.