New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams (L) breaks the tackle of Cian Healy of Ireland during their rugby union match at Eden Park in Auckland, on June 9. Williams said on Monday he was quitting the world champion All Blacks to take up a club contract in Japan, then return to rugby league in Australia
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
WELLINGTON: High-profile All Black Sonny Bill Williams said on Monday he was quitting the world champion New Zealand team to take up a club contract in Japan, then return to rugby league in Australia.
Williams, 26, who was part of New Zealand's triumphant Rugby World Cup squad last year, said he would play 10 matches with Japanese side Panasonic before switching to an unspecified National Rugby League (NRL) team in Australia.
The move back to the NRL will take the 1.91 metre (6ft 3in), 110 kilogram (17.3 stone) Williams back to his roots -- he played league in the NRL for four years before switching to rugby union in 2008.
The Auckland-born inside centre, known for his powerful running and tackling, thanked the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) for allowing him to "realise a dream" by playing for the All Blacks.
He is tipped to earn in excess of $1.4 million during his stint in Japan and a further $570,000 in the NRL.
Williams, who is playing with Super 15 leaders the Waikato Chiefs this season, confirmed he would not return to New Zealand rugby next year after playing in Japan.
He would not say which NRL club he would be playing for, but is widely reported to be joining the Sydney Roosters.
"This is due to a handshake agreement made a few years ago with an NRL club," he told reporters. "I am not in a position to elaborate on that."
Williams also has a part-time boxing career, winning five bouts, three by knockout, the most recent of which earned him the New Zealand heavyweight title.