NZ offer SBW Comm Games lure

May 31, 2010

SONNY BILL WILLIAMS has been offered the opportunity to compete at the Commonwealth and Olympic Games if he returns to New Zealand to push his claims for next year's Rugby World Cup.

All but incumbent All Blacks will be available for Commonwealth Games selection in October, and the Herald understands that the possibility of Williams representing New Zealand in India has been raised during negotiations with his manager, Khoder Nasser.

If he turns his back on a lucrative three-year deal with French club Toulon, worth $2 million a season, Williams's aim would be to make the All Blacks side for the October 30 Bledisloe Cup clash in Hong Kong, ahead of New Zealand's end-of-season tour to Europe.

But New Zealand's Sunday-Star Times reported that Williams's first rugby appearance in the national jersey could be before then, at the Commonwealth Games. He would also be eligible to represent NZ when Sevens rugby is introduced to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

The 24-year-old has already played seven rugby league Tests for the Kiwis and if he plays for the All Blacks will be the first New Zealand league international to do so.

He has never played Sevens rugby but media commentators believe the temptation to pick him for the Commonwealth Games would prove difficult to resist.

All Blacks great Jonah Lomu, who also had a league background but played rugby at senior level, was introduced to the game at international level in Sevens, and New Zealand officials have told Williams he ''could be the next Jonah Lomu'' if he accepts their offer.

According to French rugby newspaper Midi Olympique, the NZRU's deal is worth $550,000 a year and only behind those of All Blacks captain Richie McCaw and star five-eighth Dan Carter but Williams would have opportunities to earn more through third-party endorsements.

Coincidentally, the Crusaders are using the lure of playing alongside McCaw and Carter to try to get Williams to play for the Christchurch Super Rugby franchise.