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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Quakes may force Sonny Bill to leave Crusaders

Quakes may force Sonny Bill to leave Crusaders

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 24/06/2011
 
Christchurch's shaky earth could force Sonny Bill Williams to leave the Crusaders.

With the Blues and Chiefs both options for the All Blacks midfielder if he re-signs with New Zealand rugby beyond this year, the 25-year-old yesterday acknowledged the earthquakes would be factored into his decisions about any possible move.

"I have loved my time down here but I won't lie, it has been pretty difficult with the earthquakes and moving around," Williams said.

"But I am fortunate I am still here. I don't have much family down here and there are a lot of people worse off than me."

Williams was forced to move out of his inner-city apartment following the February 22 earthquake and unable to regain his possessions because the building was inside the cordon and is likely to be condemned.

With the Blues and Chiefs on the hunt for midfielders after Luke McAlister confirmed he was off to France and Tana Umaga unlikely to go around for another Super season, there is a real chance the 25-year-old will leave the Mainland.

In addition to being unsettled by the shakes that have rocked Canterbury since September 4, Williams could also be lured north by the prospect of being near his mother, who lives in Auckland.

Although he has not re-signed with the NZRU, All Blacks coach Graham Henry recently indicated he was confident the second five-eighth would remain in New Zealand and a deal could be done before the Tri Nations squad is released on July 10.

"I'm not sure, man," Williams said in reference to which franchise he will represent next year.

"I want to try and make my mind up, hopefully if I make the All Blacks squad – probably after the Super 15 season, when I can really sit down and have a good time to assess everything and weigh up all my options."

Having moved from French club Toulon a year ago, he signed a short-term deal with Canterbury and the Crusaders to promote his chances of playing alongside All Blacks playmaker Dan Carter.

Yesterday, Williams' manager, Khoder Nasser, said the NZRU was not enforcing a deadline for a final decision and despite Henry expecting to finish coaching this year, he indicated he is still involved in negotiations.

"The NZRU and Graham have been very good about it. There have been no real issues," Nasser said. "We have a great relationship with the NZRU and Graham Henry. If it was not for Graham, Sonny would not be in New Zealand."

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