All Blacks free to select SBW

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Sonny Bill Williams (Getty)
Sonny Bill Williams (Getty)

Wellington - The New Zealand Rugby Union has cleared the way for coach Steve Hansen to select Sonny Bill Williams on the All Blacks' season-ending northern hemisphere tour without him first playing in the domestic provincial championship.

Dual international Williams, a 2011 World Cup winner with the All Blacks before he returned to rugby league with Australia's Sydney Roosters in 2013, has signed a two-year contract with the NZRU and Waikato Chiefs from 2015.

Under NZRU rules, a player must first compete in domestic rugby to be eligible for the All Blacks.

However, NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said the union's board had approved an exemption for Williams, making him available for selection for the tour to the United States and Britain in November.

"We have made a big investment in Sonny Bill Williams and if the coaches believe we get the most out of that investment by taking him on the tour in November then they should have the discretion to do so," Tew told reporters on Monday.

"That's entirely in the hands of the All Blacks coaches and Sonny Bill himself because he will have to make an assessment about whether touring at the end of the year is the best thing for him or not."

Williams has linked with New Zealand's Counties-Manukau and could potentially play with the provincial team after finishing the National Rugby League (NRL) season with the Roosters.

The Roosters, however, are firming as favourites to retain their NRL title and with the final on Oct. 4, it is debatable whether the 29-year-old would be keen to play on.

"There were a number of unknowns around the situation which made it sensible to leave some flexibility," Tew said.

"If he were not to play, the board have the discretion to allow him not to play and they have exercised that discretion in advance, but it is still anticipated he will play (provincial rugby) because we think that will be of benefit to him anyway."

The All Blacks play Australia in a third Bledisloe Cup fixture on Oct. 18 before they head overseas to play the United States in Chicago on Nov. 2 before taking on England, Scotland and Wales.

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