NZRU in talks with Sonny Bill Williams
July 13, 2013
Sonny Bill Williams turned his back on union following a stint in Japan © Getty Images
The New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) has confirmed it is still in talks with former All Blacks international Sonny Bill Williams about a return to the game.
Williams, a key figure in New Zealand's Rugby World Cup 2011 triumph and the Chiefs' run to Super Rugby glory in 2012, is currently playing for Sydney Roosters in Australia's National Rugby League (NRL) competition having returned earlier this year to the 13-man code in which he made his name.
However, the 27-year-old only signed a one-year deal and has repeatedly been linked with a return to New Zealand since he brought the curtain down on his four-and-a-half year stint in union. He is widely anticipated to return before the All Blacks' defence of the World Cup crown in 2015.
Williams has kept close ties with his previous employers, and both the NZRU and the Chiefs have expressed an interest in re-signing the strong-running centre or winger. But the Roosters are also determined to retain his services, with recent reports suggesting he had agreed a bumper contract extension to remain in rugby league in 2014.
The in-demand Williams has since rubbished those claims - insisting earlier this month he had "not signed or committed to anything for next year" and that he would not do so until "the time is right" - but the NZRU clearly remains an option.
A gap in the NRL schedule allowed Williams the chance to check on his former side in person this weekend, and NZRU chief executive Steve Tew has confirmed the union remains in talks with Williams' agent, Khoder Nasser.
"Our guys have been talking to Khoder for some time, as has always been the case with Khoder," he told Newstalk ZB. "It's a very up-front conversation. You know exactly what their intentions are right from word go, and we wouldn't be having those discussions if we didn't think there was a possibility of Sonny Bill coming back and playing."
However, NRL chief executive Dave Smith is in no rush to see him leave. "We want people in our game like Sonny Bill and of course we want him to stay," he said recently. "It would be great to keep people like Sonny in the game and I think it's really important for the game."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter
While the Super Rugby season enters the all-important knockout phase, elsewhere pre-season training never looked so enjoyable. We round-up the best snaps in our Week in Pictures