Sonny Bill Williams: I would have mulled All Blacks to Samoa switch after 2015 RWC

World Rugby's eligibility rule change came too late for Sonny Bill Williams, and it may have cost the code the chance to see the former All Black wear the blue of Manu Samoa at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Williams is now 36, and about to embark on the final chapter of his sporting career as he “scratches the itch” to give boxing a proper crack.

But Williams is more than a sportsman these days. After hanging up the boots he moved into the commentary box with broadcaster Stan in Australia, and away from the industry entirely he has used his platform to advocate on behalf of asylum seekers.

He's also a champion for Pasifika. In an interview with Stuff from Sydney, Williams reiterated his call that there needed to be more Pasifika/Māori coaches at the All Blacks level, and welcomed Moana Pasifika's introduction into Super Rugby with an emphatic “about time”.

It naturally begs the question: had World Rugby’s new eligibility rules been in place during his All Blacks career, would he have entertained exiting the black jersey after the 2015 Rugby World Cup – his second – with a view to playing for Manu Samoa four years later?


“One hundred per cent,” Williams said. “I kind of did it [representing Samoa] but going back to Tana [Umaga] and what he was trying to achieve at the Blues.

“Obviously, we didn't achieve everything we wanted to, but I was in that space that I was well aware of what we could represent and what we could achieve as Polynesians and Māori. So, yes, I definitely would have entertained that idea.”

Granted, it's only a hypothetical question, but it would be a mistake to see the answer as meaningless. Williams’ standing with Pasifika players on both sides of the Tasman remains high, and his intense support for Pasifika rugby is in part fuelled by a sense of injustice that rugby politics has for too long prevented the island nations from being fairly represented on the big stage.

“No one wants to see the All Blacks beating Tonga by 100 points, because that’s not a true representation of the competitiveness and the quality of players that Tonga has produced,” Williams said.

“If we had more competitive game, more high-profile players playing in them, then you’d get more money in the game. We all the know the politics in sport, especially in the islands, but it's a step in the right direction [the eligibility change].