SBW says no to Chiefs, NZRU for 2014

'We are disappointed,' says Dave Rennie

MARC HINTON
Last updated 16:46 11/10/2013
Sonny Bill Williams
Getty Images
SURPRISE DECISION: Sonny Bill Williams will not return to rugby in New Zealand in 2014, says the NZRU.

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Just days after his belated backflip to play for the Kiwis in the rugby league World Cup, Sonny Bill Williams has changed his mind over a return to rugby in 2014.

New Zealand Rugby today confirmed Williams had informed them and the Chiefs he will not be returning to rugby in New Zealand next year. He will instead return to the NRL-winnign Sydney Roosters.

It's understood Williams had given a strong indication to the Chiefs he would be heading back to play for them next season as he looked to re-establish himself in the New Zealand game ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

But Williams' controversial post-deadline decision to play for the Kiwis at the upcoming league World Cup indicated a change of heart in terms of his preferred code for next year.

Recently crowned NRL champions the Sydney Roosters confirmed Williams had "pledged his commitment" for the 2014 season.

"The club anticipates that Williams will officially sign in mid-February for the remainder of the season on the same terms and conditions as his 2013 contract" they said in a release.

Williams on Sunday won the second NRL title of his career last Sunday for the Roosters - an event that may well have caused this dramatic change of heart.

Earlier today All Blacks coach Steve Hansen indicated he was not banking on seeing Williams back for 2014.

"We're comfortable he'll come back to rugby at some point," Hansen told LiveSport."He's had a pretty emotional time and a lot of people are trying to push his buttons.

"We're pretty comfortable we'll get him at some point as he wants to play at the next World Cup."

New Zealand Rugby general manager professional rugby Neil Sorensen said they were disappointed not to have secured the 28-year-old Williams for 2014.

"We obviously worked pretty hard to bring Sonny home, and we have had some really good conversations with him. This is disappointing but we know we put our best foot forward, and in the end Sonny has made his decision," Sorensen said.

"As we do with many players who leave New Zealand, we will continue to keep the lines of communication open with him about his playing career."

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie said: "While we are disappointed that Sonny won't be with us in 2014 now, we'll be keen to keep talking to him about future options."

Representatives of both the Chiefs and NZ Rugby went to Sydney in a last-ditch attempt to change Williams' mind on his decision.

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