Sonny Bill Williams: Leaving rugby, Japan then Roosters
Heading west: SBW will join the Roosters in Australia after a stint in Japan (Photosport file)
By 3 News online staff
3 News understands that Sonny Bill Williams will be leaving New Zealand rugby at the end of the current season.
A source has told 3 News that the All Blacks and Chiefs midfielder will be heading to Japan on a lucrative 12-game contract, before returning to rugby league with the Sydney Roosters next year.
Williams had been previously linked to the Roosters, who have freed-up salary cap room for the world cup winner.
The 26-year-old is expected to announce his decision on Australian television on The Footy Show on Thursday night.
The 17-cap All Black, who had arguably his best test at second five-eighth in the 60-0 drubbing of Ireland in Hamilton last weekend had been heavily linked with a return to the NRL and the Sydney Roosters, and more recently Japanese rugby.
Australian broadcaster and former Kangaroo Matthew Johns also stated on Triple M radio in Australia earlier this week that SBW would make a shift to Panasonic for rugby in Japan before joining the Australian-based NRL side.
He said that the direct move to the Roosters was “put on hold” with the Japanese offer, but “most certainly Sonny Bill Williams will be at the Roosters next year.”
Williams reportedly informed the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) of his decision yesterday – off contract at the end of the year with the NZRU.
Meanwhile in a conference call NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said he had a "pretty good idea" what Williams' plans were beyond the 2012 campaign.
"We've also got a commitment to him and the Chiefs about when that will be announced.
"Like we do with every player, we respect their right to determine how and when they make announcements about their future.
"It would be a great loss to lose anyone who played in that team on Saturday night frankly," said Tew.
"He's obviously had a great season with the Chiefs, and has brought it on to the international field.
"I'm sure he'll be very pleased he's now considered by many to be playing rugby of a very high standard at the international level which was his goal. Whether he chooses to stay here and continue to do that is a matter for him.
"We've put our position on the table for Sonny Bill and (manager) Khoder (Nasser) has respected that. They've made whatever decision they've made in the full knowledge of what we could do and wanted to do.
"Unfortunately we're bound by his desire to announce that on a timeline that suits him, not us.
"Our interaction with Sonny Bill and Khoder has been consistently robust and honest, and I've got absolutely no complaints," said Tew.