Williams still not cleared by Panasonic
Fri, 10 Aug 2012 1:25p.m.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen says Sonny Bill Williams remains all-but-certain to be available for the opening Rugby Championship Tests against Australia.
Williams, who leaves to begin a contract with Japanese club Panasonic next month, was a notable absentee from the All Blacks training session in Auckland today.
Panasonic are still to officially clear Williams to play the Wallabies Tests in Sydney on August 18 and Auckland on August 25. That would push back the start of his lucrative Japanese schedule.
Hansen told reporters he remained "99 per cent sure" the paperwork would be completed to clear Williams.
"There's no point us panicking. We'll have it sorted by hopefully the weekend and then he'll be into it," Hansen said.
Williams was classified as a standby player when the All Blacks squad for the championship was named, featuring injured centre Conrad Smith.
An eye injury has ruled Smith out of the August Tests, with Williams expected to start both at inside centre.
The Wallabies this week said they were planning to face an All Blacks side that featured Williams in the No.12 jersey.
The All Blacks were to play two 20-minute matches in Pukekohe on Friday night, against Auckland and Counties Manukau.
Hansen is anxious that players short of match fitness are given a decent workout in the matches.
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