All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has voiced a strong defence of Sonny Bill Williams' character amidst loud criticism of the player.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has voiced a strong defence of Sonny Bill Williams' character amidst wide-spread criticism of the code-hopper's decision to stick with Rugby League for another year.
While Williams has come under fire from rugby fans for his decision to stay with the Sydney Roosters in 2014 in the hope of winning back-to-back NRL titles rather than return to the Chiefs – as had been widely expected – Hansen has no issue with the former Bulldogs/Toulon/Crusaders/Chiefs/Panasonic player's latest contract decision and would be happy to have the centre in his squad for the 2015 World Cup in England.
Willams has said he plans to return to the Chiefs in 2015.
“I'll just clear one thing up – I don't think his integrity is in question at all,” Hansen told RadioLive in New Zealand on Sunday.
“One of the things about Sonny is that his integrity is genuine. If he says he's going to do something, he'll do it. I think going back to the Roosters originally was a prime example of that. That was done on a handshake when he left because someone helped out.
“He didn't sign anything with anybody and he's deliberately said to everyone, 'Look, I'm not going to make a decision until after the league's over,' so I don't know where you can question his integrity.”
“I think he'll be back for the World Cup,” added Hansen.
“He wants to play in the World Cup so that means he has to come back and play Super 15 in 2015 and he'll be like everyone else in that competition. Everyone will be eligible to be selected for the All Blacks if they play well enough.
“And if he's in the form, we know he can produce. He'll be very hard to leave out.”
Hansen was also supportive of SBW's decision to declare himself available for the Kiwi Rugby League World Cup team, after the squad had already been announced.
“What you can question is why did [Williams] change did he change his mind about going to New Zealand league,” said Hansen.
“Well, people change their minds all the time and he was just brave enough to say, 'I am available to play if you want to pick me.' He didn't pick himself.
“I think the league guys made a decision to pick him because they believe he's going to help them retain the World Cup … they have picked him and good on them.
“I hope he plays really, really well because I'd to see New Zealand retain the World Cup in league. It would be great for the sport and it would be great for the country.”