Sonny Bill needs 10 minutes to make All Blacks

LIAM NAPIER
Last updated 19:02 03/07/2014
Sonny Bill Williams
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COMING HOME TO ROOST: Sonny Bill Williams is currently playing rugby league with the Sydney Roosters.

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New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew has confirmed Sonny Bill Williams only needs to make one brief appearance for Counties Manukau to qualify for the All Blacks' end of year tour.

Williams' availability will depend on fitness and how far the Sydney Roosters progress towards the NRL grand final, which is scheduled for October 5.  

"His contract allows for that and our policy allows for that provided he plays in the NPC," Tew said today. "Whether that's the right thing for Sonny Bill Williams to go on the tour, or whether he's good enough to go on that tour are for other people to decide.

"The policy is a little open ended - just that you play in the preceding competition. I guess you could say 10 minutes off the bench [for Counties] might tick the box.

"The more important questions are what is the right thing for him to be in the best shape possible for rugby in 2015 and who are the best players to deliver the outcomes [All Blacks coach] Steve [Hansen] wants to deliver."

More than half the tickets to the All Blacks' first end of year tour match on November 2 in Chicago have been sold. The venue at Soldier Field, home of NFL heavyweights, the Chicago Bears, can hold up to 61,500. The NZRU is expected to be paid $1 million to cover costs.

"We're close to selling 35 to 40,000 effectively to the American rugby fraternity," Tew said. "Most of those have been sold outside of Chicago. Our big push in Chicago doesn't start for a few more weeks."

The three Sanzar nations are due to present the new expanded 18-team format to broadcasters - Sky Television, Fox and Super Sport - this month.

Finalised negotiations will provide the backbone for rugby in all three countries and there is wide-spread expectation of gaining an increased profit from previous agreements.

Tew, however, denied the consistently poor performances of the South African teams, which currently occupy four of the last six positions, would have an adverse effect on the broadcast bottom line, despite the Africans contributing the lion's share of overall revenue.

"Someone has to come last," he said. "That's just the reality of the competition. I don't have any more concerns now than when they first put it on the table. It's well documented we questioned whether they've got the player depth, but for reasons we can't control, they have to have a sixth team and we're now getting on with it.

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"Our package is more than just Super Rugby. Rugby Championship is a very important value driver, as are the June internationals and the Lions tour.

"Super Sport might be looking at the performance of the South African teams, but the competition structure gives them more games in South Africa, so we think the value has increased and that's the argument we'll be taking to the table."

A review into the Junior All Blacks World Cup performance is also about to begin. Tew admitted the team had not met expectations in recent times, having failed to win the tournament for the last three years. A replacement coach for Chris Boyd, who takes over at the Hurricanes next year, would be made at the end of the review, with assistant Scott Robertson the early favourite.

"There will be a review. We take a development focus with that team but every team in a black jersey is there to win. The results the last couple of years haven't been what we want. We reviewed last year very thoroughly and made some changes. We invested some more money so they could have more camps and still haven't ended up with the result we would have liked, which is making the final.

"There is clearly a different approach being taken by other countries in the training maturity when they turn up to this tournament."

- Stuff

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