Rugby league-Williams meets with NZRU, day after 'flip flop'

Reuters

(Recasts, adds quotes)

By Greg Stutchbury

WELLINGTON, Oct 10 (Reuters) - Sonny Bill Williams's change of heart about playing in the rugby league World Cup might not prevent a move back to rugby union after he met with New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) officials in Sydney on Thursday.

The 28-year-old and his manager Khoder Nasser met with NZRU professional rugby manager Neil Sorensen and Waikato Chiefs coaching staff Dave Rennie and Wayne Smith to discuss a return to the 15-man code.

"We had a really good meeting, still really keen and are working to bring him home, but nothing has been signed," Sorensen said.

The NZRU has made no secret of wanting to entice Williams back to his homeland after he won the 2011 rugby World Cup with the All Blacks and then the Super Rugby title with Chiefs in 2012 before switching back to league this year.

His return to league was a huge success and helped the Sydney Roosters to Australia's National Rugby League title in front of more than 81,000 fans at Sydney's Olympic Stadium on Sunday.

His playing future could be decided quickly as Super Rugby squads need to be finalised by the end of October, right in the middle of rugby league's showpiece tournament in Britain and France.

After initially deciding not to play for the league world champions, Williams was a late inclusion in Stephen Kearney's Kiwis squad on Wednesday, forcing the coach to drop Melbourne forward Tohu Harris.

Williams missed the 2008 rugby league World Cup after walking out on a five-year contract with the NRL's Canterbury Bulldogs to switch to rugby union earlier in the season.

He has signed a succession of one-year contracts since and his playing future creates a yearly maelstrom of rumour and opinion in both New Zealand and Australia.

New Zealand media have reported a tilt at the 2015 World Cup and potential inclusion in the All Blacks Sevens for the 2016 Rio Olympics were considered major enticements for Williams.

NO REGRETS

Williams had earlier said his decision to make himself available for the Kiwis instead of taking a holiday was because he feared he could not face himself in the mirror if he missed the tournament for a second time.

"When I spoke to Stephen Kearney my body was sore and tired," Williams told the BBC on Thursday. "I've not had a rest since 2008 and thought I could go on a vacation with my family but I made a rash decision without thinking about it.

"Afterwards I thought what I would miss out on and remembered how bad I felt in 2008.

"But a gut feeling ... in 10 years would I have regrets about not making myself available?

"I couldn't look at myself in the mirror so I had to make the phone call and say I was available."

Williams' late inclusion, however, has created controversy in New Zealand with an influential newspaper columnist describing it as a day of shame for the sport's governing body.

"The axing of Harris from the Kiwis World Cup league squad a day after his selection, for sport's No. 1 narcissist Sonny Bill Williams, is, in my opinion, disgusting," New Zealand Herald sports columnist Chris Rattue said.

"Camp SBW hold the power and wield it disdainfully while weak men fall at their feet.

"This is a day of shame for Kiwis league." (Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Ed Osmond)

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