Chiefs management and All Blacks coach Steve Hansen have downplayed media speculation that Sonny Bill Williams will be returning to the franchise next year.
According to the Sydney-based Daily Telegraph, the dual-code star wants to prolong his playing career and sees rugby union as a more viable option given the battering his body has taken this year in the ultra-physical NRL.
It is believed the Chiefs have tabled a three-year deal and are on the verge of drawing Williams in over the next fortnight.
However, according to other media sources, it's already a done deal.
Taking to Twitter yesterday, Sky Sport NZ commentator Andrew Voss said that Williams was indeed on his way back to Hamilton.
"Whether it gets announced publicly I dont know but Sonny Bill Williams will sign with Chiefs this week," Voss tweeted.
But yesterday Chiefs acting chief executive Sean Austin said the reports were "certainly not" the club's understanding of the situation.
"Nothing is confirmed from our perspective at all," he told the Times last night.
He said the Chiefs had been in regular touch with Williams and manager Khoder Nasser since he left the franchise.
However, he said he could not comment on where discussions between Williams and the New Zealand Rugby Union were at.
"Obviously it has been well documented we have had a lot of discussions with Sonny and the NZRU have an offer on the table currently.
"If he signs back with NZ rugby, whether its 2014 or 2015, we obviously expect Sonny will be back with us."
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen refused to comment on the likelihood of Williams returning to New Zealand rugby, saying it was only media speculation.
"It's only a report, isn't it," said Hansen. "Until such time as the ink's on the paper then it's just media talk and you guys don't get it right all the time.
"We'll look forward to it if it happens because he's a quality player."
Williams' Chiefs team-mate of last year, All Blacks and Waikato halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow, said he was the wrong person to ask about his possible return.
"I'm probably the last person who would know – I don't have a clue," said Kerr-Barlow. "The big fella's going well at the Roosters so if he comes back it would be fantastic obviously but really I don't know anything."
Williams, who played 19 tests for the All Blacks, has been in fine form since he returned to rugby league this year with the Sydney Roosters.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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