New Zealand Rugby
Toulon give up chase for SBW
ESPNscrum Staff
February 20, 2011
Sonny Bill Williams takes the ball on at All Blacks training, New Zealand training session, Hong Kong, October 28, 2010
All Blacks ace Sonny Bill Williams has proven something of a revelation since switching codes in 2009 © Getty Images

Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal has admitted defeat in his bid to persuade All Blacks star Sonny Bill Williams to return to France.

Former rugby league star Williams joined Toulon in 2008 and established himself as one of the finest young centres in world rugby before returning to his native New Zealand last year in a bid to realise his international ambitions.

However, he refused to commit himself to the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) beyond the conclusion of this year's World Cup. As a result, Boudjellal believed that he might be able to tempt Williams back to the Top 14 with another lucrative contract. However, the wealthy Toulon owner gave up on his dream on Friday, telling French newspaper Var Martin on Friday: "It's over." Consequently, Toulon are now being linked with England's New Zealand-born centre Shontayne Hape.

Meanwhile, it is being reported that another of the All Blacks' most prized assets, fly-half Dan Carter, is also set to resist the lure of the riches on offer in France and remain in New Zealand after the World Cup.

Carter was granted an unprecedented six-month sabbatical by the NZRU in 2008 to play for Perpignan but his time in Catalonia was blighted by injury and it has been claimed that he is keen on another stint in France.

Perpignan, Clermont and Toulon have all been linked with the mercurial No.10 but, with all three having signed playmakers in recent weeks, the NZRU is confident that Carter will stay put after the World Cup. Indeed, NZRU chief executive Steve Tew admitted that the union is confident of holding on to all of its star performers.

"I don't want to go into specifics but there are some things we are trying to do with senior players," he is quoted as saying by the New Zealand Herald. "The things that keep players here are the quality of lifestyle, the quality of competitions and coaching, the eligibility and lure of the All Black jersey and we do pay our guys well by New Zealand standards."

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