Another tug-of-war between rugby league and rugby union is developing for the services of dual international Sonny Bill Williams. Not for his on-field prowess, but for his off-field impact.
Williams’ former Super Rugby-winning teammates the Chiefs are hankering to have the sought-after code-hopper at Allianz Stadium for Friday night’s clash with the NSW Waratahs.
But the New Zealand rugby league team is also expecting the injured superstar in the sheds at the same time when the Kiwis tackle Australia in a one-off Test in Canberra.
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie, confident of luring the 27-year-back across the Tasman, was assuming Williams would be supporting his side on Friday night after SBW made a bee-line to his old teammates when they arrived in Sydney on Thursday night.
“We were only here for about 30 minutes and we caught up with Sonny,” Rennie said on Thursday.
“But the Kiwis are pretty keen to drag him down to Canberra just to have him on the sideline to support there.
“So I’m not sure what he’ll end up doing.”
Long-term, Rennie has a much clearer idea where Williams will end up after his stint with the Sydney Roosters.
“I reckon there’s a good show of getting him back in 2015 – World Cup year,” Rennie said.
“There’s a lot of water to go under the bridge between now and then and, who knows? He may love his return to rugby league and it might be hard to prise him out.
“But he’s always up for challenges, Sonny, so a World Cup would be a good opportunity to try and lure him back.
“And if he certainly comes back to rugby, he’d definitely come back to the Chiefs, so we’re keen to see that happen.
“He was a massive part of our group last year. He loves the boys, so it was good having him around.”
With no Williams on the park against the Waratahs this year, Rennie planned to at least have his ex-charge deliver a motivational pre-match pep talk to the Chiefs following their disappointing home loss to the Queensland Reds.
Rennie is also hoping Richard Kahui will have a Williams-type influence on the match after moving the classy All Black from outside to inside centre this week.
“That’s the plan,” he said.
“Richard’s made a bucketload of line breaks in the last two weeks. He reckons he’s made more line breaks in the last two weeks than he has in his whole career.
“That’s probably not that accurate, but he’s been a real handful.