SBW mulls NZRU offer

2011-10-27 07:34
Sonny Bill Williams (AFP)

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 overseas.

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 Union.

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 services.

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 said.

"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 does."

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 allegations.

"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.

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