The Rugby Championship
All Blacks hopeful over Williams
ESPN Staff
August 11, 2012
The Chiefs' Sonny Bill Williams celebrates his second-half score, Chiefs v Crusaders, Super Rugby, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, New Zealand, July 6, 2012
Sonny Bill Williams is still awaiting clearance to play for the All Blacks © Getty Images
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The All Blacks remain confident Sonny Bill Williams will be available for selection for Saturday's Bledisloe Cup clash with Australia, despite the centre missing training on Friday.

The All Blacks had a training session behind closed doors in Auckland ahead of their opening match in the inaugural Rugby Championship next weekend. But there was no sign of Williams who remains in a contract wrangle between his new Japanese club, Panasonic Wild Knights, and the New Zealand Rugby Union who want him to feature in the back-to-back Bledisloe Cup matches.

"It's pretty close … we're pretty hopeful,'' All Blacks manager Darren Shand said. ''There are a number of parties that have to be happy … a number of pieces of a jigsaw that have to be put together.''

Shand said there was a desire to get the matter resolved "sooner rather than later" with the All Blacks leaving for Sydney on Thursday. In Williams' absence, the All Blacks have been using Ma'a Nonu, Tamati Ellison and Ben Smith in midfield in training with Conrad Smith and Richard Kahui out through injury.

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