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New Zealand superstar will be main attraction at The Halliwell Jones Stadium
WARRINGTON’S Halliwell Jones Stadium will be lit up by some of the planet’s greatest sporting talent when it stages its first World Cup match next weekend.
The headline act on October 27, will undoubtedly be New Zealand superstar Sonny Bill Williams.
Both teams will be rammed with NRL quality, with Williams one of five Grand Final-winning Sydney Roosters players in line to strut their stuff at Wolves’ den on day two of the 36-day sporting feast.
But as New Zealand’s number one heavyweight boxer and dual-code rugby international, back rower Williams’ appeal spans the sports and the globe – and he is ‘box office’ wherever he goes.
To some, the 28-year-old is the greatest player of either code, having become renowned for his off-loading ability, powerful running and big-hitting defence.
He already has a rugby union world cup winners’ medal with the All Blacks from 2011 and now he is looking to achieve a famous double, after aiming to put down a marker with the defending Kiwis in the opening Group B game on Warrington turf.
“As a league player, the pinnacle of what you do is playing for your country, playing for New Zealand,” said Williams, whose confirmed one-year extension with Roosters last week sparked his change of heart to take part in the tournament.
“I still haven’t beaten Australia or England. To play in the World Cup is going to be special.”
His stock has risen during spells in rugby league with Canterbury Bulldogs and Sydney Roosters as well as in the 15-a-side game with Toulon in France, Canterbury in New Zealand’s ITM Cup, Crusaders and Chiefs in the southern hemisphere’s Super Rugby competition and Panasonic Wild Knights in Japan’s Top League.
It could rise again with a strong tournament over the next five weeks, then World Club Challenge and back-to-back NRL Grand Final bids with the Roosters in 2014 before he sets his sights on an All Blacks return for the Rugby World Cup in 2015.
Away from rugby, Williams’ ranking as a heavyweight boxer stems from six unbeaten fights since 2009.
As a leading light in the Kiwis’ ranks, Roosters’ player of the year – whose father is Samoan and is also a Samoan citizen himself – can expect a hot reception from his fellow countrymen as well as a warm one from the thousands who turn up to see this sporting phenomenon in the flesh.
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