Skip to main content

Rugby union, league's Sonny Bill Williams' bid for World Cups in two sports

By Tim Hume, CNN
updated 5:33 AM EDT, Tue October 8, 2013
New Zealander Sonny Bill Williams is a star in rugby union and rugby league, and perhaps the most talked about athlete in Australia and his homeland.
New Zealander Sonny Bill Williams is a star in rugby union and rugby league, and perhaps the most talked about athlete in Australia and his homeland.
  • New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams is a star in rugby union and rugby league
  • Speculation has been heated as to whether he will play for his country in the rugby league World Cup
  • His manager says he will chase the dream of winning World Cups in both rugby codes
  • He won the rugby union World Cup with New Zealand's All Blacks in 2011

Hong Kong (CNN) -- Sonny Bill Williams, the code-hopping rugby player who is perhaps the most talked-about athlete in Australasian sport, will make himself available to the New Zealand rugby league team in an attempt to win World Cups in two sports, says his manager.

Williams' manager, Khoder Nasser, told CNN of his client's decision Tuesday, hours after New Zealand selectors named a squad without the 28-year-old star to contest the Rugby League World Cup, which will be held in England and Wales in October and November.

Speculation about whether Williams would play in the World Cup has been a hot topic in rugby union and league since he helped propel his Sydney Roosters club to victory in Australia's National Rugby League grand final Sunday, amid talk it would be his last game in the sport.

Williams has been tipped to return to the 15-a-side game of rugby union in 2014 to play for New Zealand's All Blacks, with whom he won the sport's World Cup in 2011.

He's in a position where he could win two World Cups and doesn't want to regret anything.
Khoder Nasser, Sonny Bill Williams' manager

Williams was initially not named in the New Zealand rugby league World Cup squad, having told selectors he was unavailable, but Nasser told CNN that the lure of lifting a World Cup in another sport had prompted a change of heart.

"He's in a position where he could win two World Cups in two different sports," said Nasser. "He doesn't want to regret anything. He's a softie. (It's) a hard sport, but he's a softie."

As for the timing of the decision, coming after the 24-man squad had been named? "We're very spontaneous," he said.

Since controversially leaving the 13-man game of rugby league for rugby union in 2008, walking out on his club mid-season, Williams has proved himself one of world sport's most versatile athletes -- and one of the most talked about public figures in Australia and New Zealand.

After a stint learning the game of rugby union in France, he returned to New Zealand with the stated ambition of making the All Blacks and winning the World Cup. He did so in 2011, winning the Super Rugby international club championship with New Zealand-based franchise the Chiefs the following year. He then declared he wanted to return to the Australian rugby league competition where he had initially made his name.

Williams has also expanded his repertoire to boxing, winning six heavily publicized bouts to become New Zealand's reigning heavyweight champion.

Now that he has achieved his goal of winning Australian club rugby league's top prize -- for the second time, having been part of a victorious Bulldogs team in his debut season -- questions are being asked as to whether he will return to the All Blacks next year or remain in rugby league.

Nasser would only say to expect to see him at the rugby league World Cup -- where he is expected to be one of the tournament's main drawcards -- and that another professional boxing bout was planned for the off-season.

The New Zealand Rugby League did not respond to a request for comment. New Zealand is the reigning rugby league world champion.

Part of complete coverage on
updated 6:38 AM EST, Tue November 18, 2014
Click through our gallery of the most dramatic moments from the world of sport.
updated 12:06 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Whisper it quietly, but after years of foreign domination the prospect of a French winner of the Tour de France is more than just a mere pipe dream.
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Seven years ago Steve Way was a 20 per day smoker and weighed a hefty 104 kg, but he led the marathon at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
After just one day of competition, a new sport has emerged at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow: snapping selfies with the Queen.
updated 4:48 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Inspirational cyclist Joanna Rowsell added another gold to her growing collection in the individual pursuit at the Commonwealth Games.
updated 12:04 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
At the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, an actor upstaged the Queen by kissing a male dancer.
updated 8:00 AM EDT, Wed May 7, 2014
Of course not. But former Fulham owner Mohamed Al Fayed seems to think the removal of Michael Jackson's statue was a very "bad" idea.
updated 12:36 PM EDT, Wed May 7, 2014
Second-tier French side Clermont Foot appoint Helena Costa -- the country's first ever professional female coach of a male team.
updated 1:33 PM EDT, Fri April 25, 2014
The All Blacks and their fans are focused on one thing, says Dan Carter: becoming the first rugby nation to win back-to-back World Cups.
updated 9:08 AM EDT, Fri April 4, 2014
The 2002 bomb attacks in Bali had many victims -- including a touring rugby team from Hong Kong.
Photographer Danny Lyon spent three days with Muhammad Ali in 1972 and shares his best photos and memories of the champ.
updated 7:54 AM EST, Tue February 25, 2014
With a growing audience boosted by the drama of ice hockey on show in Sochi at the Winter Olympics, can the sport capitalize on its popularity?
updated 6:25 AM EST, Mon January 20, 2014
Her paintings may sell for thousands of dollars, but she is best known for a modeling shot 50 years ago that helped launch a business empire.