The Rugby Championship
Sonny Bill cleared for All Blacks action
ESPN Staff
August 13, 2012
New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams stretches Ireland's defence, New Zealand v Ireland, AMI Stadium, Christchurch, New Zealand, June 16, 2012
Sonny Bill Williams will be in action for the All Blacks in June © Getty Images
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Sonny Bill Williams has been cleared for action in the All Blacks' opening Rugby Championship games.

The centre - a recent Super Rugby winner with the Chiefs - has been added to Steve Hansen's squad as cover for the injured Conrad Smith.

After back-to-back clashes with Australia, beginning on August 18, Williams will head to Japan and the Panasonic Wild Knights before completing his return to rugby league.

Williams had always been slated for an international swansong following Smith's lay-off, but the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) had to first clear it with his new club.

"It's what we expected, but we knew it was going to take a bit of time, and we are now all looking forward to preparing for Saturday's challenge," Hansen said.

"We want to express our gratitude to the three parties involved in getting Sonny available for the All Blacks - Sonny's agent Koder Nasser, the NZRU and particularly the Panasonic Wild Knights - for their roles in allowing us to select him."

Williams - who crossed codes with Toulon in 2008 - has played 17 Tests since his debut two years ago, the most recent against Ireland in June.

He has been joined at training by Chiefs team-mates Craig Clarke and Tawera Kerr-Barlow, as well as Hurricanes fly-half Beauden Barrett. The trio have provided extra numbers around the park, while also becoming accustomed to the All Blacks' methods and environment.

"He [Kerr-Barlow] had a great year and we were just a little bit short of players to defend against," assistant coach Ian Foster told the New Zealand Herald. "Also with Tawera, we saw it as an opportunity to bring him in and have a look. I think he'll learn lots but he has plenty of energy and is a player on the rise."

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