Just three weeks out from the Anzac Test, New Zealand are unsure of whether Sonny Bill Williams’ wants to play again for the Kiwis.
Kiwis coach Steve Kearney is eyeing rookie Parramatta backrower Manu Ma’u for his Test pack as Sonny Bill Williams’ international rugby league career creeps towards an end.
Just three weeks out from the May 2 Anzac Test, Kearney admitted he was unsure of Williams’ intentions of playing in the World Cup final rematch against Australia at Allianz Stadium.
The Roosters star will return to rugby union at the end of the season and the indications are he may well have played his last league international.
Kearney isn’t aware whether Williams had made himself available for the Anzac clash but will sound him out in the next week.
“He’s probably one name of 30-35 at the moment in terms of who is in and out at this stage and who we are looking for in terms of the future for the New Zealand jumper,” he said.
Williams’ World Cup experience was soured by reports that named he and Kieran Foran as players being investigated by the New Zealand Rugby League for Stilnox abuse.
A tight-lipped Kearney said no players had been stood down following the investigation but the matter had been dealt with.
“From our point of view the full stop has been put behind it and we’re moving on now,” he said.
While SBW stands among the best back-rowers in the game, the Kiwis aren’t short on options, with Kearney lavishing praise on Parramatta’s uncapped Ma’u and talking up the depth in his ranks.
Auckland product Ma’u only arrived in Sydney last year after rebuilding his life following two years in jail for a gang-related assault in 2007.
The 25-year-old – who made his NRL debut in round one this season – has been a key contributor for the rejuvenated Eels and has already been discussed by Kiwi selectors.
“He’s certainly a name down on the piece of paper,” Kearney said.
“The way he’s playing he’d have to catch the eye, he jumps out at you when he’s playing.”
While New Zealand have made a habit of upsetting Australia in big games like the 2008 World Cup final and 2010 Four Nations final, they are yet to win an Anzac Test since it became an annual event.
Kearney believed the Kangaroos had a natural advantage through Queensland’s domination of State of Origin but felt his team were improving.
“The reality is we play a side where 80 per cent of them spend a fair bit of time together in the last eight or nine years and we get one week together,” he said.
“I thought we have taken some giant strides in this game the last few years.”