Sonny Bill Williams has provided renewed hope that he will return to the Sydney Roosters next year after he put up his hand to help New Zealand’s World Cup defence.
Just hours after a disappointed Kiwi coach Stephen Kearney revealed that ‘‘other commitments’’had ruled Williams out of his 24-man squad named yesterday, the former All Blacks superstar phoned him to say he wanted to play in the tournament.
Williams’ decision is a massive boost for the Kiwis and World Cup organisers but more significantly for the Roosters as it suggests he has not yet committed to a return to rugby union.
In fact, it is understood that Williams changed his mind as he had nothing organised beyond last Sunday’s grand final against Manly.
Initially, the 28-year-old intended to have his first break from league, union and boxing since 2008.
Whichever code he chooses, Williams is expected to fight before the start of next season – but that will probably now be in January as the World Cup final at Old Trafford is on November 30.
Williams said after he helped the Roosters to their first premiership since 2002 on Sunday that he hoped to make a decision on his future before the end of the month and there was massive speculation that he was set to return to the Chiefs.
While he is expected to switch codes again to play for the All Blacks at the 2015 World Cup and rugby sevens at the 2016 Olympics, the New Zealand Rugby Union are trying to get him back for next season and have tabled a three-year deal.
However, Fairfax Media understands that Williams has genuinely not made up his mind and his backflip on World Cup availability indicates he hadn’t even fully considered that decision as his focus was on winning the NRL premiership.
Having won a Super Rugby title with the Chiefs in 2012 and a second NRL grand final title, Williams now has the chance to become the first player to win a World Cup in both codes after he played for the victorious 2011 All Blacks side.
His availability will cause Kearney a headache as the Kiwis announced their squad in Auckland yesterday but the players are yet to undergo fitness examinations and some are certain to be carrying injuries.
Having Williams in the team will provide a massive boost for the defending world champions while tournament organisers will be guaranteed a sell out for New Zealand’s opening match against Samoa at St Helens on October 27.
Kearney, who flew home to Brisbane after he announced the team , is understood to have not yet to determined how to fit Williams in the squad and there was no official announcement from the NZRL.
New Zealand World Cup squad: Jesse Bromwich (Melbourne), Greg Eastwood (Canterbury), Kieran Foran (Manly, vice-captain), Alex Glenn (Brisbane), Bryson Goodwin (South Sydney), Tohu Harris (Melbourne), Joss Hoffman (Brisbane), Krisnan Inu (Canterbury), Shaun Johnson (Warriors), Sam Kasiano (Canterbury), Thomas Leuluai (Warriors), Kevin Locke (Warriors), Issac Luke (South Sydney), Simon Mannering (Warriors, captain), Ben Matulino (Warriors), Sam Moa (Sydney Roosters), Jason Nightingale (St George Illawarra), Frank-Paul Nu’uausala (Sydney Roosters), Frank Pritchard (Canterbury), Elijah Taylor (Warriors), Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Sydney Roosters), Manu Vatuvei (Warriors), Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Sydney Roosters), Dean Whare (Penrith), Sonny Bill Williams (Sydney Roosters).