x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Sonny Bill Williams confirms return to rugby league after agreeing Roosters deal

The former Rugby World Cup winner will return to the 13-a-side code next season once his short-term deal in Japan ends.

All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams in training
All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams in training

Sonny Bill Williams, the boxing champion and Rugby World Cup winner, has confirmed the worst kept secret in rugby union after agreeing a one-year contract to return to rugby league with Australia's Sydney Roosters.

The 27-year-old Williams had been widely expected to join the Roosters for the next National Rugby League season following the end of a short-term contract in Japan, having declined a new agreement with the New Zealand Rugby Union earlier this year.

The centre - a part of the All Blacks' 2011 World Cup winning squad - suffered a pectoral muscle injury earlier this month that looks set to end his lucrative stint with Japanese side the Panasonic Wild Knights, and has shelved his scheduled bout on November 24 against Francois Botha.

Williams said he was fulfilling a long-held promise to play for the Roosters after he sensationally turned his back on rugby league in 2008.

"It was pretty tough (to come back)," he said.

"It's tough, but me and (Roosters chairman) Nick (Politis) are good friends, good mates.

"He tried to get me when I was an 18-year-old (and) when I made that (handshake) agreement with him I knew it would always be the case."

Williams sensationally walked away from a long-term contract with the Roosters' crosstown rivals the Canterbury Bulldogs in 2008 to play rugby in France before returning to New Zealand in 2010 in an effort to make the All Blacks 2011 World Cup squad.

He played 19 times for the All Blacks following his debut against England in 2010, though appeared mostly off the bench during the World Cup campaign.

The barnstorming inside centre, however, came into his own during the 2012 Super Rugby season, helping the Waikato Chiefs to their first title, and impressing in June internationals against Ireland.

Despite stating he felt he had found his "place" with the Chiefs he declined a new agreement with the NZRU and was photographed in Sydney meeting with Politis.

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