Sonny Bill Williams speaks out after religious cover-up controversy

Sonny Bill Williams has spoken out over the controversy created after he wore a jersey hiding two of New Zealand Rugby (NZR) and the Blues' major sponsors.

Williams took to the field for his Blues debut last weekend with tape covering the collar in order to hide the BNZ logo. His left sleeve was also rolled up in order to obscure the Investec logo.

In a statement provided by NZR to the media, Williams said this was due to his religious beliefs as a practicing Muslim.

"I want to be clear that this is nothing personal against the BNZ or Investec," he said. "My objection to wearing clothing that markets banks, alcohol and gambling companies is central to my religious beliefs and it is important to me to have been granted this exemption.

"As I learn more and develop a deeper understanding of my faith, I am no longer comfortable doing things I used to do. So while a logo on a jersey might seem like a small thing to some people, it is important to me that I do the right thing with regards to my faith and hope that people respect that.

"I know I'm not perfect. Every day I work hard to become a better person. I want to thank the Blues and New Zealand Rugby for working with me through this matter over the last couple of days and respecting my religion and accommodating my request."

Both the BNZ and South African company Investec are said to be sympathetic towards Williams' cause.

Williams will reportedly be permitted to wear an exclusively designed jersey without the BNZ and Investic logos.

New Zealand Rugby has clarified that all player contracts include a clause which permits them to opt out of promoting alcohol, tobacco, finance, and gambling companies, as well as banks.