Rugby: New Zealand Rugby hopeful of Sonny Bill Williams return

Williams. Photo credit: Photosport

New Zealand Rugby is resigned to losing Sonny Bill Williams back to the 13-man code, but will leave the door open for a return in an off-field role.

Newly promoted Super League club Toronto Wolfpack is expected to announce the signing of code-hopping star Williams this week.

The 34-year-old is believed to have signed a lucrative two-season deal in the vicinity of $10 million and taken a financial stake in the Canadian club, which would make him the highest-paid player in the history of either code.

NZ Rugby chair Brent Impey hopes the former NRL star won't be lost to his home country or rugby union.

"If he does take that offer, we wish him all the best," Impey told reporters. "On the surface, it obviously looks like a terrific deal. 

"We hold him in very high regard and when his playing career finishes, I'm not sure in what role, but I believe he has things to offer us here at New Zealand Rugby, absolutely."

Williams finished his All Blacks career with a strong showing in the win over Wales to secure bronze last week at the Rugby World Cup.

Impey said the midfield back's off-field impact would be remembered as much as his spectacular deeds on the park.

A prime example was the immediate and ongoing help he has offered to fellow Muslims in Christchurch affected by the mosque shootings in March.

"He showed real leadership during that time, especially, and then within that All Blacks group, he is a real cultural leader as well and brings a great set of values to the group."

Kiwis star Shaun Johnson was glowing in his praise for Williams, when asked about the looming rugby league switch during the build-up to Saturday's test against Great Britain in Christchurch.

Johnson said Williams brought the sort of global profile that was invaluable to the code.