Dual-code star to stay in the NRL and rugby league for just one more season.
Cross-code superstar Sonny Bill Williams said he will return to rugby union in 2015 after completing a second season with NRL champions the Sydney Roosters.
Williams, 28, last week opted against returning to New Zealand rugby to instead spend another season with the Roosters, who beat Manly in last weekend’s NRL grand final.
But Williams, who flies to the United Kingdom with the Kiwis on Monday for this month’s rugby league World Cup, said he will go back to New Zealand in 2015 where he hopes to link up again with Super Rugby champions Waikato Chiefs, his championship-winning 2012 franchise.
The star athlete said he will also put his boxing career on hold for the next three years to focus on getting to the Rio Olympics with the New Zealand sevens side in 2016 — a year after helping the All Blacks try to retain the Rugby World Cup in England and Wales.
“It’s been a tough couple of days but I am happy to have my future sorted,” Williams told reporters at the New Zealand team training camp in Sydney.
“I will go back to the New Zealand Rugby Union to try and put my foot in the door for a franchise in New Zealand, hopefully the Chiefs.
“I understand, with the situation of staying in league, that might not be an option.
“But it’s good to have made my intentions clear for the next three years. I wanted to put it all out there as I am overhearing what I am going to do… (from) everyone else.
“I won’t have the time to box in the next three years.”
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said he had no problems with Williams’ delayed return to rugby.
He said Williams would be in contention for the 2015 World Cup defence even though he would be returning to rugby union only a few months earlier.
“A lot of people ask ‘is that too late?’. Well if you are a Super 15 player playing in the 2015 competition you would like to think you are going to be considered for the All Blacks,” Hansen said.
“And that is the case – if someone plays really, really well and is good enough then we will pick them.”
The Roosters last week said Williams had committed to playing for the club next year, although nothing had been signed.
“The club anticipates that Williams will officially sign in mid-February 2014 for the remainder of the season on the same terms and conditions as his 2013 contract,” it said.
Auckland-born Williams began his career in league, winning the 2004 NRL title with the Canterbury Bulldogs in his debut season before controversially walking out on the team mid-contract to play rugby union in France.
He was equally successful in the 15-man code, contributing to the 2011 World Cup win by the All Blacks and snaring the 2012 Super 15 title with the Waikato Chiefs before playing with the Roosters this year.
Williams said Sunday he changed his mind on contesting the league World Cup because “I didn’t want to look back in 10 years at something that I would have regretted.”
“I decided I was going to stay and, for elite players, the pinnacle of what you want to do is play for your country,” the playmaker said.
“I still haven’t beaten Australia or England and to play in a World Cup is going to be special.”