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Sonny Bill to announce imminent departure

Date

Brad Walter

Off ... Sonny Bill will not play for the All Blacks in the upcoming Bledisloe Cup clashes with the Wallabies or in the Rugby Championship, which replaces the Tri Nations.

Off ... Sonny Bill will not play for the All Blacks in the upcoming Bledisloe Cup clashes with the Wallabies or in the Rugby Championship, which replaces the Tri Nations. Photo: Getty Images

SONNY BILL WILLIAMS will announce today that he has played his last Test for the All Blacks unless he returns to New Zealand rugby union after an expected stint with Sydney Roosters.

Williams, who has signed a lucrative deal with Japanese rugby powerhouse Panasonic Wild Knights understood to be worth more than $1.2 million for 12 games, has advised the NZRU that he will not return to the country to play next season.

The 26-year-old dual international, whose five-year ban from the NRL after walking out on the Bulldogs in 2008 will have expired, will leave New Zealand as soon as his commitments with the Chiefs are over next month.

As a result, he will not play for the All Blacks in the upcoming Bledisloe Cup clashes with the Wallabies or in the Rugby Championship, which replaces the Tri Nations.

However, Williams will not make any announcement on his anticipated move to the Roosters, and the Herald understands he is yet to finalise a deal with the NRL club for next season.

Should he do so, Williams will be free to join the club in January when Japan's Top League season ends.

Like the Roosters, Panasonic are prepared to allow Williams to box while under contract, and the New Zealand heavyweight champion is expected to have a fight in November, possibly in South Africa.

Wild Knights general manager Hitoshi Iijima told the Herald in April that the offer to Williams was the biggest Panasonic had made for any player, surpassing the $US1.1 million South African centre Jaque Fourie was paid last season.

Iijima said the signing of Williams would help to promote the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Williams will hold a press conference at 9.45am today in Hamilton. It will be attended by Chiefs coaches Dave Rennie and Wayne Smith and All Blacks assistant Ian Foster.

After starring in the All Blacks' record 60-0 defeat of Ireland, Williams has been hailed as a rugby superstar, and NZRU officials are keen for him to return for the 2015 World Cup.

Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal has also recently expressed interest in luring Williams back to France's Top 14 competition, and he has attracted interest from South Africa.

However, Williams has been in talks with the Roosters since late last year, and was photographed by The Sun-Herald on New Years Eve at a meeting with club boss Nick Politis and Channel Nine chief executive David Gyngell.

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