We're pretty excited he's here
Sonny Bill Williams' new Japanese club has cleared the star centre to play in the All Blacks' opening Rugby Championship matches against Australia, officials said Monday.
Williams signed on with the Panasonic Wild Knights last month but New Zealand asked the club to release its high-profile recruit so he could cover for the injured Conrad Smith in two Championship Tests against the Wallabies.
With less than a week until the opening match, there were doubts Williams would be available as the Japanese club insisted on medical tests to ensure he was fully fit after a taxing season with Super Rugby winners, the Chiefs.
But the New Zealand Rugby Union said Monday that all arrangements had been made for Williams, 26, to again don the black jersey and it could confirm his place in the team.
"It's what we expected, but we knew it was going to take a bit of time, and we are now all looking forward to preparing for Saturday's challenge," All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said in a statement.
"We want to express our gratitude to the three parties involved in getting Sonny available for the All Blacks - Sonny's agent Koder Nasser, the NZRU and particularly the Panasonic Wild Knights - for their roles in allowing us to select him," Hansen added.
The decision means Williams will play Australia in Sydney next Saturday and Auckland a week later.
After completing a lucrative stint in Japan, Williams is expected to return to Australia's National Rugby League next year, the competition where he made his name with a 2004 premiership win with the Canterbury Bulldogs in his rookie season.
Despite being reunited with the All Blacks, it is uncertainty what sort of reception the game-breaking inside centre will get in Sydney during Saturday's Rugby Championship/Bledisloe Cup test.
Williams trained fully on Monday and assistant coach Ian Foster gave every indication his name would feature when the team is unveiled on Thursday.
Williams was exceptional in the three Tests against Ireland in June, followed by the Chiefs' charge to the Super Rugby title.
"We're pretty excited he's here. He brings three games' experience in June, which enables us to have a bit of continuity," Foster told journalists.
"And he brings a lot of confidence himself given the way he's played in 2012."
Foster said there was ample time to get Williams up to speed for his 18th Test and his first on Australian soil.
Interest surrounds how Williams will be received in Sydney, given his controversial mid-contract walkout on the Bulldogs NRL club four years ago. He has since played rugby union in France and New Zealand for two years each.
"It [Williams' availability] is good for us, that's all we're focusing on," Foster said.
"Wherever he goes, there's usually a bit of news going with it."
The All Blacks were buoyed at training on Monday by the return of their rested Chiefs contingent, along with three non-squad members to boost numbers - Hurricanes first five-eighth Beauden Barrett, Chiefs halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Chiefs lock Craig Clarke.
Everyone in the squad was fit for selection, including world class No.8 Kieran Read, who had overcome rib difficulties.
Foster admitted left wing was one of the hardest selection choices, with Julian Savea, Hosea Gear and Ben Smith all strong contenders.
Another challenge was filtering the game plan to the players at a speed which was easy to digest.
"It's exactly the same challenge as we had in June. We can't try to go in too complex and we can't over-train or put too much information in.
"Rugby is a simple game but clearly when you're playing Aussie you need a few more options up your sleeve."
NZRU & NZ Newswire