Sonny Bill chooses All Blacks

2010-06-05 17:25

Auckland - Sonny Bill Williams has turned his back on the richest contract in rugby history to pursue his dream of playing for the All Blacks at next year's Rugby World Cup.

According to Rugby Heaven correspondent, Brad Walters, Williams has been starring for Toulon in France's Top 14 competition since walking out on NRL club, the Canterbury Bulldogs, two years ago.

He will return to New Zealand after his June 30 fight on the undercard of close friend Anthony Mundine's KO to Drugs promotion in Brisbane and is expected to play his first match on home soil just weeks later.

An official announcement will be made early this week, although the 24-year-old is still undecided about which provincial and Super 15 teams he will link with during his 18-month contract with the NZRU.

According to sources within his family in New Zealand, the catalyst behind Williams's decision was his mother, Lee, who lives in Auckland.

After he'd spent nine years away, first as the Bulldogs' youngest ever player and then with Toulon, Lee said: ''It's time to come home Sonny - come home and prove that you can be an All Black.''

Williams also has two sisters in Auckland and his partner Genna's family live there.

He arrived in Australia nine days ago to prepare for the KO to Drugs bout, his second professional fight. He had intended to wait until after the event to make a decision about his future in rugby.

However, the pressure from Toulon had become intense and Williams felt he should respond to their world-record $6 million, three-year offer.

It is not the first time Williams has put his on-field goals ahead of money. He rejected a $1 million-per-season offer from St Helens in 2005 to stay at the Bulldogs for a third of that amount.

But he has told friends the decision to move countries once again and back himself to succeed in another challenge had been the most difficult of his remarkable career.

Toulon are building one of the strongest club teams in world rugby after adding New Zealand front-rower Carl Hayman - regarded as the best prop in the game - and former Wallabies great George Smith to a roster than includes England's Jonny Wilkinson and South Africa's Joe van Niekerk.

Williams enjoyed his two seasons at Toulon and feels a sense of loyalty to the club after the faith and support given to him to make the transition from NRL superstar to one of the best prospects in world rugby.

But he also has close ties with Tana Umaga, the man who convinced him to join Toulon.

The former All Blacks captain may have influenced his decision to sign with the NZRU after recently giving Williams the jersey from his 74th and last Test in 2005 at Murrayfield.

Williams had the jersey in his bags when he arrived in Sydney on May 28. He was also wearing a black jacket, although he told the Herald at the time that did not mean he was leaning towards signing with the NZRU.

It was only after a three-day visit to New Zealand by Williams's manager, Khoder Nasser, earlier that week that the NZRU began to gain favour.

Unable to even attempt to match Toulon's pay offer, the NZRU gave Williams the choice of which teams he would play for in the ITM Cup and next year's Super 15 competition. He was also given the option to return to Europe or the NRL after the World Cup, to be staged in New Zealand at the end of the 2011 season.

All Blacks coach Graham Henry spent up to 12 hours with Nasser outlining his plans for Williams and the opportunities for third-party sponsorship deals to supplement the NZRU's reported $550 000-per-year offer. Nasser was also introduced to officials from the Auckland Blues, North Harbour and Counties-Manukau, who have Umaga on their coaching staff.

Nasser also travelled to Christchurch to look over the set-up at the Crusaders. Joining that team would give Williams the opportunity to play alongside the likes of Dan Carter, Richie McCaw and Brad Thorn.

The NZRU's respect for his ability and the time and effort put in to woo him also impressed his mother.

After the KO to Drugs event, Williams will focus on playing rugby in a bid to break into the All Blacks team for the October 30 Bledisloe Cup Test against Australia in Hong Kong and November's tour of the British Isles.

Rugby Heaven

  • Theo - 2010-06-05 18:14

    Never heard of this guy. Has an impressive sporting record. Lets see what he does when Bakkies cleans him out.

  • Meyer - 2010-06-05 18:47

    Should be interesting to watch against the world's best... Who is he? What position does he play?

  • Andrew - 2010-06-05 20:44

    he plays centre... and he is pretty good at it. this guy can knock Bakkies out

  • Theo - 2010-06-05 21:31

    Google'd him. Appears to have been very active in a Sydney hotel toilet with an Aussie triathlon athletics star (much to his girlfriends dismay). At least Bekker was caught kissing his skelmpie in a park. Most top level League players blow it in Union. Lets see how this guy goes. Personal opinion is that Bakkies will use him to pick his teeth at the after match function.

  • Jay - 2010-06-06 00:33

    He's a boxer aswell.. would knock seven shades of shit into Bakkies. I assume he would slot into outside centre. Great to finally see someone choosing All Black ambitions over the $ in Europe. So dissapointed in Hayman choosing Europe.

  • @Theo - 2010-06-06 01:50

    Look at this guy! MMA and Rugby Union. This guy will kill Bakkies Botha. Remember, Bakkies can only fight against little guys like Gio Aplon when he gets blind sided.

  • Breinou - 2010-06-06 03:23

    This guy was apparently really good at league. He got destroyed by Stirling Mortlock when the aussies played the Baabaas

  • Bok - 2010-06-06 04:09

    He will make no difference up front...he should stay where he is

  • Lenny G - 2010-06-06 04:56

    Typical bull supporter mentality, bakkies will take him out. Bakkies the man who goes down on his knees before a game and then cleans players out. Rugby does not need palyers and supporters like this.

  • wark - 2010-06-06 06:47

    Theo....some good league players which went to union were Tama Umaga....Brad for Bakkies picking his teeth....sorry he would not last one round with Sonny..... also read the record offer for union.....

  • @Theo - 2010-06-06 07:31

    Of course you haven't heard of him - you think the Republic is the World. Get out of Bakkies' bed, travel beyond the Jukskei, and see the whole World. Dom seun.

  • Flod - 2010-06-06 07:57

    I rate him. This guy has been a professional athlete since the age of 16 (if that's possible?) and has been misguided by many including his family, who all make a very good living off him. This is possibly the first and only chance he has to persue what is GOOD FOR HIM. As for his ability on the field, Jacquis Fourie and Brian O' Driscoll will be challanged, off the field I would run, even if I was Bakkies. He is not to be messed with, this boy.

  • Shaun - 2010-06-06 08:24

    This guy could knock Bakkies out? ROFLMAO! Nobody can knock out a giant unless they have tiny stone and a leather slingshot ^^

  • Frank - 2010-06-06 09:43

    First it was Jonah Lomu and now Sonny Bill .....please man NZ rugby should start coaching their players BMT maybe then will they win a WC. 2011 will be yet another disaster for the NZ nation on their home turf.

  • Arthur - 2010-06-06 11:18

    Ag something for the "No Front Teeth" brigade of Cape Town to get excited about

  • Milder - 2010-06-06 16:07

    Actually some of the very best players in Union came from Lueague. The main reason is that it's been professionla lot longer and the players are normally pretty well conditioned. Just look at players like Jason Robinson, one fo the best players fo all time!

  • anti blue bull - 2010-06-07 06:17

    Bakkies Botha is a big old bully that runs to his mommy when he gets banned for breaking the rules. Now he is at home drinking his Klipdrift and coke like good pathetic pretoria boys should

  • Gerhard - 2010-06-07 06:27

    What ever, just nother blown up Kiwi. Maybe he is that good. But as the Kiwi's should have learned in 95', it takes more then just one over grown bully wannebe to win the RWC. And sorry to say, but this guy has nothing n Bakkies., but wait theres more, he has nothing on Spies, Vistor, Danie or Bekker... His smaller then all of them! What is a little impresive though is that he is a centre, BUt no worries there either, we will hunt him down!!! But it's nice to see a player put personal ambitions ahead of money. That is great for the game!!! Go bokke! May the Tri nations cup, and WC stay in SA for another 4 year!!!

  • Dronkie - 2010-06-07 07:19

    Bakkies is n bang gat... Die bra Sonny is die real deal......Hy en Spiere Spies sal mekaar lekke bliksem

  • iceman19820603 - 2010-06-08 15:50

    @Gerhard. Take your head out of your arse son. This guy is 108kg centre. Do you know what momentum is. Its speed multiplied by mass. Spies' momentum is a lot better than Bakkies. Same with this guy. Only , he is in the centres. Nobody said he is the saviour of All Black rugby. He will make a difference though, because he is as good as everybody say he is. Why dont you look up some of his hits on youtube, then we talk.

  • james - 2010-06-15 14:42

    No doubt he is a good prospect for the All Blacks, but after watching his hits on you tube, i dont think he'll last a handfull of games before being banned for a couple of months. He can't tackle and only uses his shoulders. So nothing to worry about. Makes Butch James at his worst look amateurish.

  • James - 2010-06-24 15:31

    i've seen this guy in action. he's the real deal. 1st the biggest superstar in rugby league history, then a professional boxer, and now a professional union player.

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