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Sonny Bill Williams in Kiwi squad after dramatic u-turn
9:02am Wednesday 9th October 2013 in Sport
Dual-code international Sonny Bill Williams has been confirmed in New Zealand's official squad for the Rugby League World Cup.
It had been expected the 28-year-old would miss the Kiwi's defence of their title after selectors said he had "other commitments", and he was not in the 24-man party named on Monday.
Coach Stephen Kearney indicated there had been a change of heart on Tuesday, though, and on Wednesday morning the New Zealand Rugby League confirmed Williams had replaced Tohu Harris in its squad.
Kearney admitted the decision to stand Harris down had been a tough one, but felt Williams - fresh from an NRL win with Sydney in his return season in league - offered things which could not be overlooked.
"It's been a tough situation, but Sonny brings things to the group that we couldn't ignore," Kearney he said.
"He has had time since his NRL grand final win to clear his head and he wants to represent the Kiwis on the world stage. He missed our 2008 World Cup win and his inclusion will be a great asset in trying to repeat that success this year. It's not only his footballing ability, but also what he brings off the field which will benefit the team.
"Tohu handled the situation as well as anyone could. It was a conversation no coach would like to have, but he's a terrific young man and I'm sure he'll have many more opportunities to pull on the black jersey.
"It's been a unique set of circumstances for all involved, but for now our focus is getting set to defend the World Cup with the team we have."
The selection caps a remarkable year for Williams, who was a key figure for the Roosters in their run to the NRL Grand Final and subsequent win over Manly.
He originally left league for the 15-man code in 2008, going on to win the World Cup with the All Blacks while winning the Super Rugby title with the Chiefs in 2012.
He had been expected to return to union this winter, but his participation in the World Cup suggests he may now have other plans.
New Zealand made the change with just a matter of hours remaining before all official groups had to be declared to tournament officials.
Had they failed to do so, an inquiry would have been needed to determine whether Williams could play.
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