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All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has made it clear that Sonny Bill Williams will be on the end of year tour, though there are no guarantees he will play any games.
Hansen has voiced his views on the controversial decision to get Williams instantly into the All Blacks selection mix on his return from rugby league, even though he may not have played for his Counties Manukau union. His selection would be against ordinary New Zealand Rugby regulations.
The NZR board has granted an exemption to Williams though, smoothing the passage for his early return with the defence of next year's World Cup rapidly looming.
Hansen told Radio Sport today that he had sounded out the Williams situation because he felt there was time pressure involved, both this year and next..
"I didn't come out and ask for an exemption. What I asked for was I'd like to take him on the end of year tour," Hansen said.
He felt there was some "grey area" over when Williams would return to New Zealand given the good form of his Sydney Roosters league team in the NRL and the uncertainty when they would finish their campaign.
"So they (the board) have decided in their wisdom to get rid of that (grey area) like they did with Luke McAllister when he came back," Hansen told Radio Sport.
"The reasons we want to take him on the end of year tour is because there are very limited test matches between now and the World Cup.
''If he was to be in a successful Chiefs side next year and they were playing in the final, for example, then he wouldn't be available for some of those test matches."
Hansen said it was more about getting Williams familiar with the All Blacks systems again.
Williams played 19 tests for the All Blacks - seven off the bench - between 2010 and 2012, including the 2011 World Cup success.
If his test opportunities were compromised by Super Rugby next year, "it becomes difficult then to get him back into the ways of the All Blacks''.
''Not so much back in the ways of rugby, because I think he will pick that up very quickly... he has all of Super Rugby to do that, but it's getting back into the way we do things which is subtly different - we have seen that with all the players."
Hansen said what involvement Williams would have on the end of year tour would depend on his fitness.
"We don't know what physical shape he will be in. He may come on the tour and not play any games, he may play, we'll have to see."
Hansen felt Williams deserved an exemption because of his commitment to return to New Zealand.
"He is coming back, he's not leaving. You have a quality, world class player at your disposal.
''Our job is to pick the best team ... he is going to be one of the best players so you pick him."
Hansen expected Williams to make the transition back to the 15-man game "very quickly".
He said Brad Thorn had proven that in similar circumstances, playing league again after an introduction to rugby and then returning to rugby to become a very good player.
Williams now had an understanding of rugby that would make things far easier this time around.
Hansen said he had already had "a couple of conversations" with Williams who was "excited and desperate" about coming back.
Williams would provide midfield options for the All Blacks, particularly at second five where there were having problems in their current campaign in the Rugby Championship.
First choice Ma'a Nonu was battling a shoulder injury and Ryan Crotty was out with a facial fracture after the first two tests against the Wallabies.
With Dan Carter also out with a leg fracture, Hansen indicated Malakai Fekitoa would have to step into the No 12 jersey if Nonu wasn't ready as expected for the next challenge against Argentina.
Hansen said the mini-crisis in the midfield emphasised what he had told several young players who had decided to move overseas early in their careers - a couple of injuries could quickly change circumstances.
Hansen said after the remarkable win over the Wallabies, the All Blacks had quickly switched attention to Argentina for the test in Napier on September 6.
Analyst Aussie McLean had already done his reconnaissance on the Pumas and this was being presented to the All Blacks management to formulate a game plan.
Hansen was clearly still buoyed by the 51-20 win over the Wallabies at Eden Park last Saturday, though he didn't rate it the best victory of his time as head coach.
He felt last year's 38-27 triumph over the Springboks in Johannesburg ahead of it because "it was away from home, at altitude against a side that played very well".
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