Super Rugby
Sonny Bill Williams shrugs off criticism
ESPN Staff
July 16, 2012
Sonny Bill Williams fronts the media to confirm his Chiefs exit, Hamilton, New Zealand, July 9, 2012
Sonny Bill Williams is set to turn his back on rugby union at the end of the year © Getty Images
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Sonny Bill Williams has rubbished suggestions that he is a 'rugby mercenary' only interested in the next big pay cheque.

The All Blacks star confirmed last week that he will quit New Zealand at the end of the current Super Rugby season having signed a reported NZ$1m (£510,000) 12-game deal with the Wild Knights in Japan. An equally lucrative return to rugby league is also in the pipeline for 2013 but Williams insists he is not driven by financial reward.

"I think that a lot of people think that my manager goes out there and shops me around but it's the opposite, he doesn't do anything," the 26-year-old told EWN Sport. "I just try and perform on the field; and I believe if you're performing on the field then the offers will come."

The Chiefs centre has also been widely criticised for his reluctance to commit himself long-term to New Zealand rugby but again he believes his motives have been misunderstood. "A lot of people think of me, or look at me, or take me in the wrong way in the sense that I only sign one-year deals, in that I only want to get the best deal for myself," he explained. "But they forget though that the pressure's on me as well, I have to perform every year and that's what gets the best out of me.

"Every year I know that the pressure's on me to perform, if you don't perform then no one will want you. I've seen far too many players get to that age where they're probably not performing as well as they have in previous year's and skip the cut. People, before they go start asking questions about that, they should look at the whole picture as well."

Williams is determined to leave New Zealand on a high by helping the Chiefs to claim the Super Rugby crown but he knows they will need to raise their game having lost top seeding for the play-offs to the Stormers. "A lot of people wrote us off at the start of the year but we knew as a team that we had a lot to prove.

"That's what motivated us, we were all in the same boat; we're a new franchise, not just players but as coaches too, and we had something to prove and we've done that so far. But we've lost our last two games on the trot and it's been pretty tough. This week hopefully we can fix a few things and get to where we were before that break."

Beyond a return to Australia's NRL, nothing is set in stone for Williams and he is not ruling out a return to the 15-man code in the future with the dual code international unlikely to be short of offers. "Nothing is settled with me when it comes to playing-wise," said Williams who has hinted that he would consider a return to Toulon in France where he began his union career. "That's always an option I guess, you never close any door especially when you have fond memories of that place. Playing for the Rouge et Noir was pretty special, I had some really good times there. Mourad Boudjellal is a special man, he loves Toulon wholeheartedly; he put everything into it and you've got to admire that.

"I don't know what tomorrow holds, I just want to play good and do myself and my family proud. Like I said if I ever came back to New Zealand I wouldn't play for anyone else other than the Chiefs and if I ever went back to France it'd be tough to play for any other club, other than Toulon."

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