Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Williams tipped for the Blues

Sonny Bill Williams says he wants to settle on his Super 15 home before the World Cup. He has had offers from the Chiefs and the Blues. Photo / Paul Estcourt
Sonny Bill Williams says he wants to settle on his Super 15 home before the World Cup. He has had offers from the Chiefs and the Blues. Photo / Paul Estcourt

Sonny Blue Williams. Only he and his advisers know the timing of the public announcement but Williams is gearing his next Super 15 season towards a one-year deal with the Blues.

The six-test All Black has decided to cut his ties with the Crusaders and while the marketplace buzzes with conjecture the midfield back is weighing up offers from the Chiefs and Blues, the Herald understands Williams is heading for Auckland.

Sources confirmed he had delivered his goodbyes to the Crusaders who have endured a torrid travel and playing schedule this season after the February earthquake ruined their Christchurch headquarters.

Williams would find continued coaching connections at the Chiefs with departing All Black assistant Wayne Smith and a readymade midfield association with Aaron Cruden and Richard Kahui.

However, it seems the pull of Auckland where his mother lives and the chance to play alongside other All Blacks such as Alby Mathewson, Piri Weepu, Ma'a Nonu, Isaia Toeava, Rene Ranger, Rudi Wulf and Isaia Toeava, have swayed Williams to sign on for the Blues.

He has said he will play one more season in New Zealand after the World Cup and the Blues' interest peaked after Williams' management came inquiring about a deal.

"He's got a tough decision to make but we just have to be patient," coach Pat Lam said last week. "We are definitely interested in him but it has to be his choice." Williams said he wanted to settle on his Super 15 home before the World Cup and was pulled in many directions.

"I'm committed to staying here for another year. It's due to the fact that the amount of support that I've got back in New Zealand has been pretty humbling and cool at the same time," Williams said.

He liked playing for the All Blacks and that was the major factor in extending his time in New Zealand until the end of next season.

"At this stage it's just one more year but things could change. It just keeps me on my toes like I've said before with my one-year contracts."

Initially he came to New Zealand to try to make the World Cup before jetting back offshore again. However he had been swayed by the support and interest he received here and had changed his plans.

Now those ideas have to take another step after he decided to leave the Crusaders.

He could live in Auckland and play for the Chiefs but that travel might become a bind. He would get coaching expertise from Dave Rennie and Smith but may feel their pack did not have the experienced clout of the Blues forwards.

If Williams' contract remains the same, the Blues will have to work out how best to use him around release dates to continue his boxing career.

Williams was chosen in this year's All Black squad but he has been unable to oust Nonu or Conrad Smith from starting roles in the midfield. He came off the bench against the Springboks and Wallabies for a total of 39 minutes.

He should be chosen this week in the reduced squad to play the Boks in Port Elizabeth on August 21 but there is no guarantee he will be given a start.

- NZ Herald

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