Work in progress: SBW wants to be selected on form. Photo: Jenny EvansSonny Bill Williams will return to Test football for New Zealand in two weeks in a move that may lead to the Sydney Roosters superstar becoming the first player to win World Cups in rugby league and union.
Williams confirmed his decision to make himself available for the Kiwis on the eve of Monday night’s match against Parramatta – his fourth since returning to the NRL after five years in union – and will be selected in the Kiwis’ side for the April 19 Test against Australia at Canberra Stadium.
New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney met with Williams in the week leading up to his Roosters debut on March 7 and asked about his availability, but the dual international wanted to ensure he was selected on form.
The 2011 Rugby World Cup winner was maintaining the same line on Sunday when asked about playing in the upcoming Test, but given how quickly he has readjusted to the game, Kearney will have no hesitation in choosing him.
”I’d love to say yes and I will definitely be putting my hand up if my form warrants it,” Williams told reporters during his first media session in Australia since starting training with the Roosters in February.
”We will have to see how I go but at this stage it’s about keeping my place at the Roosters and playing good consistent footy.”
After a solid but unspectacular start from the bench in his first match against South Sydney, Williams played 80 minutes in each of the Roosters’ other matches and was widely considered man of the match in last weekend’s 8-0 shutout of the Broncos.
While Williams was regarded as potentially one of the game’s greats when he walked out on the Bulldogs in 2008, Kearney said the way he has eased himself back into the game showed how much he has matured.
”The thing that I think everyone has been impressed with is the way he has improved since his first game. It is a real credit to him,” Kearney said.
”It would have been easy for him to come back and try to play the way he left it, but he has been very measured in the way he has gone about it and hasn’t tried to force things.
”We all know what he was capable of before he left the game, but the way he has come back is probably a sign he is a lot more mature and he has played that way.”
Kearney is yet to ask Williams about the World Cup at the end of the season but the fact he has made himself available for the one-off Test in Canberra suggests there is a strong possibility of him playing in the tournament.
Williams’ inclusion in the Kiwis squad would be a massive boost for the World Cup holders and also for tournament organisers in England, where ticket sales for the semi-final at Wembley and final at Old Trafford are already very strong.
After missing New Zealand’s triumph over Australia in the 2008 final to play rugby for Toulon in France, Williams would have the opportunity to become the first player to win World Cups in both codes.
Wendell Sailor and Mat Rogers came closest after winning the 2000 World Cup with the Kangaroos and being members of the Wallabies side that lost the final of the rugby union equivalent in 2003 to England.
Williams said the game was much more structured since he last played but after his stint in rugby union he was used to that.
”I’ve come back to league as a union player and I’m facing new situations,” he said. ”Sometimes they’re big hurdles but good players can overcome them.”
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