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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

Rugby Championship: All Blacks want Sonny Bill Williams for Bledisloe Cup match

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen is confident centre Sonny Bill Williams will have completed a four-week suspension in time to play against Australia next month

New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams, right, walks from the field after he was sent off during the second rugby Test against the British & Irish Lions in Wellington, New Zealand. Mark Baker / AP Photo
New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams, right, walks from the field after he was sent off during the second rugby Test against the British & Irish Lions in Wellington, New Zealand. Mark Baker / AP Photo

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen is confident centre Sonny Bill Williams will have completed a four-week suspension in time to play in the first Bledisloe Cup Test against Australia next month.

Williams was sent off in the second Test against the British & Irish Lions on July 1 for a dangerous shoulder charge on Lions winger Anthony Watson. He was only the third All Blacks player to be sent off in a rugby Test, and the first in 50 years.

Williams received a four-week suspension which caused him to miss the third Lions Test and the Blues' Super Rugby match against the Sunwolves in Tokyo last weekend. Hansen hopes that by missing a friendly match involving his Counties-Manukau provincial side and a club match, Williams will have completed his suspension in time for the August 19 Bledisloe Cup opener.

READ MORE: All Blacks-Lions stalemate an anticlimax to a six-week festival of rugby

He told Radio Sport on Thursday that Williams will be available to play against the Wallabies one way or another.

"There's one game that's a bit contentious about whether they are going to consider it or not," Hansen said. "If that's not the case then we'll get him back just for the Test match. If it's considered, then we'll get him back for the game of three halves that we play every year before the [Rugby Championship] and Bledisloe starts."

Meanwhile, Hansen is hoping Malakai Fekitoa does not leave New Zealand to play club rugby in Europe but will support the midfield back if he decides to make the move.

Media reports in France suggest wealthy Top 14 club Toulon are on the point of signing the powerful 25-year-old Otago Highlanders centre for next season.

"He's making a decision based on what's right for him, and like all of the guys that go overseas, we don't want them to go, but we've got to support them," the coach said.

"If he goes overseas, we'll support him in that."

Fekitoa played 10 Tests last season as Hansen started rebuilding his midfield in the wake of the international retirements of stalwarts Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith at the end of the 2015 World Cup.

He was left out of the squad for the British & Irish Lions series, however, but was called up as injury cover and given some playing time off the bench in the drawn third Test.

"He's always in our mind, he's been a very good player," Hansen added. "We just thought there was an area of the game that we wanted to see improve and didn't select him. But he got his opportunity again in the series and played well."

Hansen said he always tried to talk to players when they were considering leaving for clubs abroad, a move that curtails their international career except in the rare cases when they have a New Zealand Rugby agreement.

"The big thing is you don't want them going if they feel they've got time and things they want to do in that black jersey, because they'll have regrets when they finish playing," Hansen said.

"If their minds are made up, you've got to support them. If they're in two minds, you try and steer them to making a decision that's right for what they're thinking versus the money. Sometimes it's a hard battle."

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