Sonny Bill Williams: Super League side Toronto sign two-time rugby union World Cup winner

Sonny Bill Williams
Sonny Bill Williams will become the highest paid player in the history of either code

Sonny Bill Williams has completed his cross-code return to rugby league after signing for Super League newcomers Toronto Wolfpack on a two-year deal.

It is the two-time rugby union World Cup winner's third stint in the 13-man code, the New Zealander having started his career in Australia's NRL in 2004.

"The club has big ambitions and big goals," the 34-year-old said.

"I want to be part of all this and do all I can to help reach those lofty goals."

The Wolfpack, a club owned by Australian mining tycoon David Argyle, have made Williams one of their two permitted marquee players on a deal believed to be worth £5m over two years.

It will make him the highest paid player in the history of either code, but his marquee status means that only the first £150,000 of his salary will count towards the club's salary cap.

Williams enjoyed World Cup wins with New Zealand in 2011 and 2015, either side of a second spell in NRL.

A back in union but a forward in league, Williams also played in New Zealand's loss to Australia in the 2013 Rugby League World Cup final.

"On the field I'd like to bring high quality play and do all I can for the betterment of the team," Williams added.

"Off the field I'd like to use my experience to mentor the young players and be helpful where I am needed.

"Super league will be a new challenge and one I'm looking forward to. It will be a new experience and one I'm ready to embrace."

'One of the world's highest profile sports stars'

His latest switch to rugby league comes just a week after featuring in his third rugby union World Cup, with the All Blacks finishing third.

Williams might be best known worldwide for his exploits in the 15-man game, but he has long been player of renown in rugby league.

Sonny Bill Williams
Sonny Bill Williams helped New Zealand beat Wales to finish third at the 2019 rugby union World Cup

During his league career he won two NRL titles - first with Canterbury Bulldogs in 2004 and again in 2013 with Sydney Roosters.

He also had a spell as a professional boxer between 2009 and 2015, winning all seven of his fights.

For a Canadian side whose value to the British game was questioned by sceptics, the signature of Williams is a huge statement of intent.

"We have signed one of the highest profile rugby players, if not sports stars in the world and he will enhance the world of rugby in Toronto and certainly push the brand of the Wolfpack onto another level," Toronto head coach Brian McDermott said.

"The main point of excitement for our club is that we are signing a great rugby league player who has the hunger to be successful in Super League much as he was in the NRL and rugby union."

He will line up for Toronto in their inaugural season of top-flight competition in 2020, with the club having only come into existence three years ago.

They have moved up through the lower, semi-professional leagues on a fully professional budget to reach Super League and become the first North American side to play in the competition.

It is understood the Wolfpack are chasing a number of other high-profile additions, with England rugby union international centre Manu Tuilagi also a top target.

The NFL offers a route to other potential signings; with former rugby union star Christian Wade and ex-Australian Kangaroos league international Valentine Holmes, who are currently pushing for playing spots in the league, a possible focus for interest.

Toronto start their Super League campaign against Castleford Tigers on 2 February as part of a Super League double-header at Leeds Rhinos' Headingley home.

Listen to the 5 live rugby podcast on BBC sounds, where Dave Woods and Toronto Wolfpack's Director of Football, Brian Noble, react to the news of Sonny Bill Williams' signing.

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