Rugby union - All Blacks relax rules for code-swapper Williams

Rugby union - Williams a 'talented' mercenary, says ex-Blacks coach

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New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams runs with the ball during the 2013 Rugby League World Cup Final between Australia and New Zealand at Old Trafford in Manchester on November 30, 2013. AFP PHOTO/PAUL ELLIS (AFP Photo/PAUL ELLIS)

- The All Blacks said Monday they had relaxed their rules to clear the way for code-swap superstar Sonny Bill Williams to slot straight back into the team when he returns to rugby union later this year.

Williams, who is completing his second stint in Australia's National Rugby League (NRL), would normally have to participate in New Zealand's domestic ITM Cup before being eligible for All Black honours.

But the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) said an exemption would be made, allowing Williams to play the world champions' end-of-year tour to the United States and Europe.

"SonnyBWilliams gets exemption to be selected for end of year tour even if he doesn't play ITM Cup," the All Blacks said on their official Twitter feed.

Williams began his career in rugby league, winning the 2004 NRL title with the Canterbury Bulldogs in his debut season before controversially walking out on the team mid-contract to play rugby union in France.

He was equally successful in the 15-man code, contributing to the 2011 World Cup win by the All Blacks and snaring the 2012 Super 15 title with the Waikato Chiefs before returning to the NRL with the Sydney Roosters last year, picking up another title with the side.

Williams' return has been timed to reinforce the All Blacks before they defend their Rugby World Cup title in England next year.


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