Sonny Bill Williams to stay in league with Sydney Roosters

Sonny Bill Williams

Sonny Bill Williams is to remain in rugby league after New Zealand union officials failed in their bid to persuade him to switch codes.

The forward, 28, was linked with a union return at the end of his one-year deal with league side Sydney Roosters.

New Zealand Rugby general manager Neil Sorensen said: "This is disappointing, but Sonny has made his decision."

Williams turned down a place in the New Zealand Rugby League World Cup squad, but reversed the decision a day later.

He spent five years in union after walking out on original league side Canterbury Bulldogs in 2008, but returned to help the Roosters win the NRL title.

In his time in union, Williams played domestically in France, Japan and his native New Zealand, as well as being part of the All Blacks' World Cup-winning side of 2011 and another code-switch could have seen him a part of their defence in 2015 as well as rugby sevens' Olympic debut at Rio 2016.

Sorensen added: "We obviously worked pretty hard to bring Sonny home, and we have had some really good conversations with him.

"But we know we put our best foot forward. As we do with many players who leave New Zealand, we will continue to keep the lines of communication open with him about his playing career."

Williams, who is also New Zealand's heavyweight boxing champion, was being lined up for a return to the Waikato-based Chiefs, with whom he won the Super Rugby title in 2008.

Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie said: "While we are disappointed that Sonny won't be with us in 2014 now, we will be keen to keep talking to him about future options."

Speculation linking Williams with a move to union grew as his Roosters deal came closer to its end.

And, after helping the Roosters to a 26-18 victory over Manly Sea Eagles in the Grand Final and being named as the club's player of the year, Williams turned down the chance to help the Kiwis defend their World Cup title because of "other commitments".

However, when Williams had a change of heart, he replaced 21-year-old Tohu Harris in the New Zealand squad.

"I'm sorry for taking someone else's spot," Williams told BBC World at the time. "Now that I'm there, don't expect anything other than a full-hearted performance."

Now, Williams looks likely to sign a new deal with the Roosters in February.

"It's a big thing for our club on and off the field," said head coach Trent Robinson.

"I wasn't sure until he told us last night. It was his decision and I've said all along I wasn't going to ask him. We'd let him come to his own decision.

"All we did was support him and now he has supported us. It's great for our game that he's still here."