Kiwis waiting on Sonny’s World Cup call

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Kiwis convenor of selectors Tony Iro is awaiting word from the Sonny Bill Williams camp whether the dual international will make himself available for New Zealand in the rugby league World Cup.

He said Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney was seeking clarification about Williams’ position and a decision was expected to be announced later on Monday.

“I’m just waiting to hear back from my coaches,” Iro told AAP.

Williams’ availability has been the major talking point ahead of the defending champions’ squad announcement on Tuesday.

The second-rower, who gained his first Kiwis cap in 2004, played seven Tests before his switch to rugby union in 2008, so missed New Zealand’s World Cup triumph later that year.

He returned to league this year with the Sydney Roosters and had a significant role in their dramatic 26-18 NRL grand final win over Manly on Sunday.

The 28-year-old said after the match that he would make a decision in the next couple of weeks over his footballing future.

A 19-Test All Black who was part of the 2011 World Cup-winning side, he has been tipped to return to rugby with the Chiefs.

The Kiwis have good depth in their back-row options, but Williams would provide them with the X-factor.

Their back-row stocks include skipper Simon Mannering, who played in the victory over the Kangaroos in the 2008 final.

Others who took part in that 34-20 upset in Brisbane and are expected to be back are the likes of hooker Issac Luke, utility Thomas Leuluai and winger Manu Vatuvei.

Among the uncapped contenders, Dally M winger of the year Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is in line to back up his grand final win with the Roosters with selection in the squad.

While the mercurial Benji Marshall is unavailable as he prepares for a move to rugby with the Blues, young halves Kieran Foran and Shaun Johnson provide plenty of playmaking talent.

Kearney and the 24-strong squad will gather in Sydney on Saturday before flying out for Britain.

The Kiwis have a warm-up fixture against the Cook Islands in Liverpool on October 20, before beginning their Cup defence against Samoa in Warrington seven days later.

© AAP 2014
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