Kiwis taking shape but SBW still not locked in

By Michael Brown

Kiwis selectors are still unsure about whether they will be able to call on Sonny Bill Williams. Photo / Getty Images.
Kiwis selectors are still unsure about whether they will be able to call on Sonny Bill Williams. Photo / Getty Images.

The Kiwis World Cup squad is starting to take shape, with seven more players added to the train-on squad, but the Kiwis selectors are still unsure about whether they will be able to call on Sonny Bill Williams.

There were few surprises in today's announcement, with Greg Eastwood, Krisnan Inu, Sam Kasiano, Sam Perrett and Frank Pritchard of the Bulldogs and Jason Taumalolo and Antonio Winterstein of the Cowboys asked to keep themselves in shape ahead of next month's tournament. It brings to 24 the number already in the train-on squad with a host of others to follow as teams are eliminated from the NRL playoffs.

The final 24-man squad will be announced on October 8, two days after the NRL grand final, which might be the first indication of whether Williams will play at the World Cup.
Williams is off contract with the Roosters at the end of the season and, depending on who you talk to, will be at the Roosters or Chiefs Super Rugby side next year. He has repeatedly said he won't make a decision until after the league season and, with the Roosters having won the minor premiership and one of the favourites for this year's title, that might not be until after the grand final.

There's also the complicating factor of his professional boxing career - he's New Zealand heavyweight champion - but it's hard to see Williams resisting the temptation of trying to win a World Cup with both the All Blacks and Kiwis.

Kiwis manager and convenor of selectors Tony Iro said they would remain patient with the star second-rower.

"When he's playing the way he's playing and he's in such demand, we are prepared to wait,'' Iro said. "I don't think he knows what he's doing yet and I don't think that decision will come until after the Roosters' last game. There's still plenty of time.''

There are still as many as 15 Kiwis contenders involved with the six teams remaining in the playoffs, which would balloon the train-on squad to close to 40 players. Some of today's inclusions are likely to make the final cut.

Pritchard and Perrett played in this year's Anzac test in Canberra and the other three Bulldogs players were absent with Kasiano injured, Inu suspended and Eastwood on bereavement leave.

Taumalolo, a 20-year-old second-rower, has previously been selected for the Kiwis but didn't play in last year's Anzac test and in April played for Tonga in an international against Samoa.

Winterstein, a winger who can play centre, was included in last year's train-on squad for the end-of-year test against Australia but didn't make the final cut.

Bulldogs utility Dene Halatau, who played 15 tests for the Kiwis between 2004 and 2009, was overlooked.

Kiwis World Cup train-on squad
Brisbane Broncos: Alex Glenn, Josh Hoffman
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs: Greg Eastwood, Krisnan Inu, Sam Kasiano, Sam Perrett, Frank Pritchard
North Queensland Cowboys: Jason Taumalolo, Antonio Winterstein
St George Illawarra Dragons: Bronson Harrison, Jason Nightingale
Penrith Panthers: Lewis Brown, Sam McKendry, Dean Whare
Warriors: Shaun Johnson, Thomas Leuluai, Kevin Locke, Simon Mannering, Ben Matulino, Sam Rapira, Elijah Taylor, Manu Vatuvei
Wests Tigers: Adam Blair, Tim Simona
Unavailable: St George Illawarra Dragons: Gerard Beale (injury); Wests Tigers: Benji Marshall (moving to rugby union)

- APNZ

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