Rugby League-Sonny Bill gets awkward World Cup nod

Reuters

(Recasts with Williams' selection in squad, adds details, quotes)

WELLINGTON, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Sonny Bill Williams has been brought into New Zealand's rugby league World Cup squad after back-flipping on his holiday plans and belatedly making himself available for selection.

The dual code international initially ruled himself out of the Kiwis' title defence starting later this month, but changed his mind within hours of coach Stephen Kearney releasing his squad for the tournament in Britain, Ireland and France on Tuesday.

Williams' u-turn has proved controversial, with one New Zealand selector saying he had "disrespected" the team, but Kearney made it clear the bulky 28-year-old was too valuable to leave behind.

"It's been a tough situation, but Sonny brings things to the group that we couldn't ignore," Kearney said on New Zealand Rugby League's (NZRL) website (www.nzrl.co.uk) on Wednesday.

"He missed our 2008 World Cup win and his inclusion will be a great asset in trying to repeat that success this year.

"It's not only his footballing ability, but also what he brings off the field which will benefit the team."

Williams, who helped the Sydney Roosters win Australia's National Rugby League (NRL) title on Sunday, replaces Melbourne Storm's 21-year-old Tohu Harris in the 24-man squad.

Harris was to have accompanied the squad in a development role, but NRL side Storm had decided it was in his "best interests" to stay in Melbourne and have a decent off-season, NZRL said.

"Tohu handled the situation as well as anyone could," said Kearney. "It was a conversation no coach would like to have, but he's a terrific young man and I'm sure he'll have many more opportunities to pull on the black jersey."

Williams earlier said that he had "jumped at the chance to chill out and rest."

"After having some time to really think about how much representing my country means to me, I decided to then put my name forward for selection," he said in a statement posted on his Twitter account.

Williams' back-flip was not welcomed by all of New Zealand's rugby league community, and team selector Richie Barnett made his displeasure clear.

"In some way he has probably disrespected (New Zealand's squad) but he's made a decision and we've just got to cop it on the head," Barnett told News Ltd media.

"At the end of the day, we're here to win a World Cup, we're not here to please people on moralistic grounds."

Williams, who won a World Cup with the All Blacks in 2011, has been tight-lipped about his future plans, but is widely tipped to quit the NRL to revive his rugby union career in New Zealand with Super Rugby's title-holding Chiefs.

(Writing by Ian Ransom; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

View Comments (0)

Recommended for You

  • Pre-teen who called out Obama gets kicked off Facebook

    Pearson, under Facebook’s minimum age requirement of 13, was upset to find out that he was locked out of his account. After failing to get into his personal page, he created a new one, according to a Fox News blog post. “Due to the fact that approximately 7.5 million kids (under the age of 13) log…

    Christian Science Monitor
  • US billionaire says WWII Japanese ship found in Philippines

    Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen said Wednesday he had found one of Japan's biggest and most famous battleships on a Philippine seabed, some 70 years after American forces sank it during World War II. Excited historians likened the discovery, if verified, to finding the Titanic, as they hailed the…

    AFP
  • Central Florida man killed by police serving search warrant

    By Barbara Liston ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) - A 26-year-old Central Florida man died after being shot in the face early on Wednesday morning by a sheriff’s deputy attempting to serve a search warrant in a narcotics investigation, authorities said. The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office reported in a…

    Reuters
  • 175-Pound Pit Bull Hulk Shatters Misconceptions About the Breed

    This dog just may be the world's largest Pit Bull. Only 18-months-old, Hulk weighs a hefty 175 pounds. He's also best friends with a 3-year-old boy.

    ABC News
  • Chad president tells Boko Haram leader to surrender or face death

    By Madjiasra Nako N'DJAMENA (Reuters) - President Idriss Deby of Chad said on Wednesday he knew the whereabouts of Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram, and called on him to surrender or risk being killed. Chad's army has waged a series of battles against Boko Haram…

    Reuters
  • Australians on Indonesia death row arrive on execution island

    Two Australian drug smugglers were taken Wednesday to an Indonesian island where they will be executed despite frantic diplomatic efforts to save them, as Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Australia was "revolted" by their looming deaths. Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the ringleaders of the…

    AFP
  • U.S. may review 1959 airplane crash that killed Buddy Holly

    (Reuters) - U.S. transportation safety investigators said on Wednesday they are reviewing a request to reopen a probe into the 1959 airplane crash that killed musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J.P. Richardson, better known as "The Big Bopper," and their pilot. The original investigation 56…

    Reuters
  • Barcelona to meet Athletic Bilbao in Cup final

    Madrid (AFP) - Barcelona eased into the Copa del Rey final as they completed a 6-2 aggregate win over Villarreal with a 3-1 win at El Madrigal on Wednesday.

    AFP11 mins ago
  • Student Shot With BB Gun On Campus Shocked by University`s Reaction

    A student at Norfolk State University says she was shot with a BB gun and hit with a bottle of urine outside of a all-male dorm room on campus, but says the school offered little help to her or other students when she contacted them.

    Tribune
  • 'Thousands' of Russian troops in east Ukraine: US envoy

    The United States' senior envoy to Europe alleged Wednesday that Russia had deployed "thousands and thousands" of troops to neighboring Ukraine. Speaking to a congressional foreign affairs committee, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland also told US lawmakers that Russia was flooding…

    AFP
  • Couple plead not guilty to locking up kids 22 hours a day

    JEFFERSON, Ohio (AP) — A husband and wife accused of making three of their adopted children virtual prisoners inside their Ohio home pleaded not guilty Wednesday in a case that began after prosecutors say two girls crashed the family van while trying to make their escape.

    Associated Press
  • Killers sought in deaths of 300,000 chickens in South Carolina

    By Harriet McLeod CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) - Revenge may be the motive for the killings in South Carolina of more than 300,000 commercial chickens worth about $1.7 million over the past two weeks, authorities said on Monday. Birds have been found dead of unnatural causes in 16 chicken houses at…

    Reuters
  • Majority of Americans now support marijuana legalization, survey shows

    For the first time, the General Social Survey shows that a majority of Americans support the legalization of cannabis.

    Yahoo News36 mins ago
  • View

    Hello kitty and kitty and lots more kitties on Japanese island where cats rule (17 photos)

    An army of feral cats rules a remote island in southern Japan, curling up in abandoned houses or strutting about in a fishing village that is overrun with felines outnumbering humans six to one. Originally introduced to the mile-long island of Aoshima to deal with mice that plagued fishermen's…

    Yahoo News
  • Georgia police officer killed in shootout

    By David Beasley ATLANTA (Reuters) - A Georgia police officer was killed in a shootout with a suspect in suburban Atlanta early on Wednesday, authorities said. Officers went to investigate reports of shots in a suburban neighborhood and came under fire about 1:30 a.m. EST, according to the Fulton…

    Reuters
  • Passengers use emergency slides after landing in Denver

    DENVER (AP) — Passengers on an American Airlines flight from Charlotte, North Carolina, were forced to slide off the plane on emergency chutes soon after landing in Denver on Wednesday.

    Associated Press
  • Former marine reported killed in Syria

    A former Royal Marine has become the first Briton to be killed while fighting with Kurdish forces battling Islamic State jihadists in Syria, leaving his family "devastated" Wednesday. Konstandinos Erik Scurfield, 25, died on Monday in a battle with IS militants, a source in the Kurdish People's…

    AFP
  • Americans Love K-Cups, but Their Creator Regrets Inventing Them

    Now it seems that John Sylvan, the inventor of the tiny containers, is firmly on Team #KillTheKCup too. “No matter what they say about recycling, those things will never be recyclable,” said Sylvan.

    Takepart.com
  • Judge Napolitano on 'scathing' federal report on Ferguson PD

    Insight from Fox News senior judicial analyst

    FOX News Videos