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Sonny Bill included in Kiwis, young forward axed

Published: 8:40PM Tuesday October 08, 2013 Source: ONE Sport

Sonny Bill Williams has been added to the Kiwis squad for the Rugby League World Cup.

New Zealand Rugby League made the announcement this afternoon, calling it "a unique set of circumstances" which had led to Williams' recall.

Williams signalled yesterday to Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney that he'd reconsidered his position of not being available for the tournament after initially making himself unavailable

Teams have the ability to make changes at this stage and Williams' registration has been accepted by World Cup organisers.

"It’s been a tough situation, but Sonny brings things to the group that we couldn't ignore," said Kearney.

"He has had time since his NRL grand final win to clear his head and he wants to represent the Kiwis on the world stage.

"He missed our 2008 World Cup win and his inclusion will be a great asset in trying to repeat that success this year. It’s not only his footballing ability, but also what he brings off the field which will benefit the team."

Williams replaces the Melbourne Storm's Tohu Harris in the 24-man Kiwis squad.

The Kiwis were keen to take Harris to the UK in a development role, which would see him travel with the squad and play pre-tournament against the Cook Islands, but the Storm have decided it is in Harris' best interests to stay in Melbourne and have a decent off-season.

The 21-year-old, who made his first grade debut for the Storm in the World Club Challenge in the UK in February, will instead bring forward minor surgery.

"Tohu handled the situation as well as anyone could," said Kearney.

"It was a conversation no coach would like to have, but he's a terrific young man and I'm sure he'll have many more opportunities to pull on the black jersey.

"It's been a unique set of circumstances for all involved, but for now our focus is getting set to defend the World Cup with the team we have."

Sonny Bill explains back flip

Earlier today, Williams attempted to explain his extraordinary back flip today.

"After a few tough seasons topped with an amazing one with the boys at the Roosters, I was then faced with the opportunity to have a long holiday with my family," Williams tweeted today.

"Without thinking the whole situation through thoroughly, I eagerly jumped at the chance to chill out and rest.

"After having some time to really think about how much representing my country means to me, I decided then to put my name forward for selection.

"Now I know the squads already been picked and I understand if I can't be a part of it, but I'm here and ready to help the brothers if they want me.

Williams change of heart forcing a quick change of thinking from Kearney last night.

"Late on Tuesday, Sonny Bill Williams expressed his desire to play for the Kiwis in the Rugby League World Cup," Kearney said in a statement.

"Our thinking had always been that if Sonny was available, he would be part of the team. We are now exploring options around Sonny's possible inclusion in the tournament. This would require ratification by the World Cup organisers."

The inclusion of the superstar second rower is not only a boost for the Kiwis, but the World Cup as a whole.

Despite a likely a return to New Zealand rugby next year, Williams is arguably the biggest name and his presence would lift the profile of a tournament that struggles to get coverage outside of the three main rugby league countries.


Backs: Josh Hoffman, Kevin Locke, Jason Nightingale, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Manu Vatuvei, Bryson Goodwin, Krisnan Inu, Dean Whare, Kieran Foran, Shaun Johnson, Thomas Leuluai.

Forwards: Issac Luke, Jesse Bromwich, Sam Kasiano, Ben Matulino, Sam Moa, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Greg Eastwood, Alex Glenn, Sonny Bill Williams, Simon Mannering, Frank Pritchard.