WELLINGTON • All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams has spurned lucrative moves to France as well as a return to the Australian Rugby League in favour of signing a new deal to stay in New Zealand until after the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
The former New Zealand rugby international and heavyweight boxing champion, who is hoping to win sevens gold at the Olympics in August, helped the All Blacks to successive World Cup triumphs in 2011 and last year.
The 30-year-old said a call from All Blacks coach Steve Hansen after last year's World Cup final had convinced him to stay in the 15-man game in New Zealand.
"I grew up as a league boy, I'm not going to lie," he said at a news conference in Auckland yesterday. "But now this is where my path is and it's an amazing feeling to be part of such a high-quality team.
"I must admit when I first came back, I didn't really know too much about what it means to be an All Black. Now I do.
"I love winning. I love the high-pressure environment. I don't know if I could get that overseas."
Williams said family reasons were behind his decision to leave the Waikato Chiefs and play Super Rugby for the Auckland Blues. He will be reunited with Tana Umaga, the coach who attracted him to French club Toulon in 2008.
The new deal allows him to continue playing sevens and keep boxing in the off-season, he added.
Williams is not in the New Zealand squad preparing for the June Test series against Wales, having decided to commit fully to the All Blacks sevens programme.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE