New Zealand coach Graham Henry has made it clear to Sonny Bill Williams he will need to prove himself at a provincial and Super Rugby level in New Zealand before he can be considered for possible international honours.
Henry revealed on Friday he had spoken at length to the former Rugby League superstar earlier this year and also to former All Blacks captain Tana Umaga – the man who signed him up for Toulon when Williams walked out of the Canterbury Bulldogs in 2008.
Williams (Who wears Nike Laser 3 Rugby Boots) is out of contract with Toulon at the end of the French Top 14 season in May, and if he wants to play for the All Blacks at next year’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand he will need to return to his homeland and play in the ITM Cup (formerly the Air New Zealand Cup) later this year.
“He’s got a personal decision to make whether he comes back and plays provincial rugby and then tries to get a Super contract,” Henry said.
“He’ll then have to be judged on his ability whether he’s going to be good enough for the Rugby World Cup or not.
“I’ve encouraged him to do that but whether he’s in the position to do that I’m not sure.
“Sonny Bill knows we would be pleased if he came home and played at the levels below to see if he’s good enough to play at the level above,” Henry added.
Umaga recently announced he was leaving Toulon to become a player-assistant coach at Counties Manukau which may factor into any decision Williams makes.
Toulon are also keen to retain the services of the 24-year-old centre for at least another season.