New Zealand center and twice World Cup victor Sonny Bill Williams has agreed to join the Toronto Wolfpack rugby league team ahead of their debut in England's top-tier Super League next year, the Canadian side said on Thursday.
It means Williams should be free to return for the Kiwis after last appearing for them in the 2013 Rugby League World Cup final Australia won 34-2 in Manchester, but Samoa coach Matt Parish has declared his interest in luring the 34-year-old, who has a Samoan passport, into playing for his team.
Although Williams has been plagued by injury in recent years, and at 34 is nearing the twilight of his playing career, the Toronto Wolfpack believe he offers enormous value as they prepare to debut in the English Super League.
"Sonny is a phenomenal athlete and we believe he is rugby's LeBron James and his addition to our league is comparable to when David Beckham joined LA Galaxy".
It's a sizeable paycheck for the former All Blacks midfielder, but one the Wolfpack's commercial vice president Jon Pallett said was worth writing.
"There's very few sport stars on the planet that transcend their sport".
"Sonny Bill Williams will provide an immediate impact for rugby league in the Northern Hemisphere and for the development of rugby in North America", Meninga said.
"We'll certainly be trying to persuade him to be part of our test matches at the end of next year and also at the World Cup 2021".
"Also to the supporters, I just want you men to know I am coming over there to get the job done tough, not for a holiday break".
"We have a really good IT department and server, and it crashed".
"I'd also like to thank everyone involved in the All Blacks family". I never dreamed that I'd play in the black jersey for ten years playing alongside some of the legends of the game, and I'm grateful for the support of so many people in helping me grow as a footy player over that time.
He recently took part in the Rugby World Cup in Japan, where the All Blacks finished in third place.
The former Canterbury and Sydney Roosters premiership victor has represented New Zealand in both league and union but is eligible to play for Samoa through his father's heritage. After a successful rugby league career and rugby stint in France, he made his rugby debut for Canterbury in 2010 and earned his first All Blacks cap later that year against England.
The 34-year-old dual-code worldwide will be officially unveiled at a press conference at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium next Thursday and join up with his new team-mates after a period of rest and recovery following the Rugby World Cup.
The Canadian league outfit will next year play in the Super League for the first time after two promotions in three seasons since first playing professionally in the United Kingdom in 2017.