Sonny Bill Williams’ sporting career could be on the verge of taking another unexpected twist with Australian media reports touting him as a potential Samoan international at this year’s rugby league World Cup.
Williams has not yet confirmed he is available for the Kiwis title defence in the UK, raising speculation the former All Black and part-time boxer could instead turn out for Samoa.
Incumbent Kiwis second rower Frank Pritchard plus former international props Roy Asotasi and Jeff Lima could also be enlisted by Samoa according to a report in The Daily Telegraph newspaper.
Former Samoa and Kiwis centre Nigel Vagana is helping to assemble the Pacific Islanders’ squad for the tournament, which is held in the UK in October-November, and was cagey when asked if Williams was a possibility.
He would not reveal the identity of players who had made themselves available – the situation will be clearer when Vagana hopes a test between Samoa and Tonga is played a day after the April 19 Anzac Test in Canberra.
“If the cards - or the coconuts - fall our way, we could potentially have the greatest Samoan team ever,” Vagana told The Daily Telegraph.
“I actually think Tonga could have their best possible team ever as well.
“It has always been a viable option for 18, 19, 20-year-olds to play for the Pacific nations and then go on and play for New Zealand or Australia.
“I did it as a young guy, but what's happening now is that it's becoming a serious option for older players, seasoned first-graders,” said Vagana, who played two tests for Samoa before earning 38 caps for the Kiwis between 1998-2006.
Williams, who is expected to make his NRL comeback against South Sydney in the premiership opener next Thursday, planned to meet Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney before his controversial heavyweight bout with Francois Botha in Brisbane on February 8.
Those talks never took place but Williams was hoping to catch up with Kearney before the season got underway.
Williams and Kearney were not available for comment.
Fairfax Media also reported Williams was being courted by Samoa and the prospect of playing alongside friend and former Bulldogs teammate Reni Maitua was appealing.
However, if the 27-year-old, who played seven times for the Kiwis between 2004-08, pledged allegiance to Samoa it would end his prospects of adding a league World Cup title to his rugby World Cup winner’s medal – a scenario that does not sit well alongside his ambition to also secure the inaugural rugby sevens goal medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016.