SONNY BILL WILLIAMS is hopeful he will still be able to fight Francois Botha and finish his rugby union commitments in Japan before joining Sydney Roosters, despite suggestions from the club he is in doubt for the start of the NRL season.
After arriving in Sydney yesterday morning, Williams headed straight to Roosters headquarters at Moore Park to undergo an MRI scan for the pectoral muscle injury he sustained playing for Panasonic Wild Knights last weekend and was shattered when he received the results.
However, he refuses to accept the bout is off against Botha - a former world heavyweight champion, who has fought Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis - and he may have played his last game of rugby union.
Despite being booked for surgery today, the 27-year-old All Blacks superstar hopes to return to Japan to help the Wild Knights in the Top League competition and postpone his fight with Botha until February.
That would leave him on schedule to meet the timeline that had already been agreed on for him to join the Roosters before the start of the season.
Such a scenario would also be welcomed by Channel Nine, who have proposed to kick-off the 2013 NRL season with the Roosters hosting South Sydney at Allianz Stadium in March.
If he is out, Nine may want to open the season with another match as the Roosters finished 13th last season and it is Williams' return to the game five years after walking out on the Bulldogs that is the big drawcard.
There were conflicting estimates of how long Williams would be sidelined, with Roosters doctor John Orchard telling club officials he would require three to five months recovery - ruling him out of action until the start of the NRL season and possibly until round three.
Doctors in Japan, who had assessed him after the injury last Saturday, had given him the green light to fight Botha in Brisbane on November 24 before returning to play for the Wild Knights.
But after undergoing a second MRI yesterday, Williams consulted his private doctor Shamile Hussain and orthopaedic surgeon John Gallagher, who advised him the recovery time would be 10 to 12 weeks.
He decided to have surgery immediately in a bid to return to the playing field for the Wild Knights as quickly as possible.
Having returned to Sydney to prepare for the fight against Botha, Williams did not want to discuss his impending return to the NRL when he arrived from Tokyo yesterday morning.
''The whole rugby league situation is something I will approach when the time is right,'' he said.
After getting the results of the scan, Williams spoke briefly to Roosters chairman Nick Politis but he is yet to sign a contract to play in the NRL next season. Asked about comments from ARL Commission chairman John Grant and interim chief executive Shane Mattiske that they would want to talk to the Roosters before agreeing to register his contract, Williams told the Herald: ''I will cross that bridge when I come to it.
'' I am still a rugby player and I am still signed with the Panasonic Wild Knights, so I have got to respect them.''
Initially, it had been reported Williams had suffered a more serious injury playing for the Wild Knights last weekend and he was in severe pain before being taken from the field.
An MRI scan in Japan found only a minor tear, but Williams admitted the bout with Botha was in doubt when he arrived yesterday. ''That is the reason I came back here straight away,'' he said.
''I have got four weeks off now and I am supposed to be preparing for a big fight with Botha, but I just need to find out what is going on with this injury.
''If I can't fight, then hopefully I will be right when I am due to go back to Japan. We will just wait and see what happens.''