Sonny Bill could make early return for All Blacks
June 28, 2014
Sonny Bill is hoping to make his return for the All Blacks this year © PA Photos
Cross-code star Sonny Bill Williams could make his return to the All Blacks this year.
Williams, who is currently chasing back-to-back titles with the Sydney Roosters in the NRL, has made it clear that he wants to line-up for Counties Manukau in the ITM Cup - New Zealand's domestic union competition - in order to make himself available for selection on the All Blacks' end of year tour.
The 2015 World Cup was the incentive that lured Williams to sign a two-year deal with New Zealand Rugby Union, Super Rugby's Chiefs, and Counties, and Williams believes the best way to secure a spot in the All Blacks' squad is to take part in their tour to Chicago, Twickenham, Cardiff and Edinburgh.
If the Roosters again reach the NRL grand final on October 5, Williams would need Counties to qualify for the playoffs - with their last round-robin match just three days later against Auckland - to satisfy eligibility criteria for All Blacks selection. But if the Roosters fail, Counties coach Tana Umaga made it clear the he would do everything he could to cater for Williams.
"All I know is if he wants to go on the end of year tour he'll have to play some time for us this year," Umaga told Fairfax Media. "We've been prepared for that. If he is feeling good and wants to go on the end of year tour after his time with the Roosters then I'm sure we'd have no qualms making time available for him to get on the field.
"It would be great for our community, fans and the guys who get to play alongside a well documented superstar. It will be based on how he's feeling and where his head is at after another long season. He's done it before with the Kiwis so it's not as if his body wouldn't be used to it. It's just whether he wants that or good preparation time leading into Super Rugby and a World Cup year."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt won the tactical battle and set his team on course for a shot at the Grand Slam. Tom Hamilton reports from Dublin
With the World Cup only a few months away, the last thing France needed was doubts over the future of their coach, writes Huw Richards
They came to Murrayfield looking to put down a marker, but Scotland were sent home with their tails between their legs, writes Tristan Barclay
The controversial tackling technique will be in full swing in Dublin on Sunday, writes Conor O'Shea, and could be a decisive factor for Ireland