Sonny Bill to meet with French coach - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Sonny Bill to meet with French coach

29/07/2008 12:03:45 PM Comments (0)

Sonny Bill Williams is expected to meet Toulon coach Tana Umaga this week, the French rugby club's president has revealed.

After saying at the weekend the AWOL Bulldogs NRL star was not set to join the club, Mourad Boudjellal was quoted by French media saying a meeting was imminent.

"Williams wishes to meet Tana and speak with him, this will happen this week," Boudjellal was quoted as saying on the website of leading French newspaper L'Equipe.

But Boudjellal was mindful of the fact Williams would be switching football codes and acknowledged the matter was not a simple transfer.

Williams, who was believed to be in hiding in London en route to France, has been issued with a subpoena to face the NSW Supreme Court court next week.

The subpoena is the first step in the Bulldogs' bid to impose an injunction on Williams, preventing him from taking up an offer to play in the French rugby union competition.

He has been ordered to appear - or have a representative appear on his behalf - in court in Sydney on August 5.

NRL chief executive David Gallop has called on the International Rugby Board (IRB) to block the 22-year-old's registration with Toulon.

Boudjellal said: "If he wants to play here, to stop playing (league), if we have the authorisation of the IRB and if we can afford it, then we will study the file. It would be an enormous opportunity."

New Zealander Williams is believed to be travelling on a Samoan passport and could have run into problems if he did not have the correct visa to allow him to enter France.

Toulon, newly promoted to the French Top 14, are due to start their 2008-09 season on August 26 against Clermont and are reportedly prepared to pay Williams $3 million to play for them for the next two years.

Williams has a contract with the Bulldogs to the end of the 2012 season.

Meanwhile, national rugby league team coach Ricky Stuart has called for a rule to prevent players who break their club contracts from returning to the NRL for two years.

"I think it's important how the game handles this and that will decide what the future holds," Stuart said.

"I think it's a real sign now that the game has got to show some great leadership and bring out some direction in regards to these players who do want to go away.

"I really feel as though we should be bringing in a rule that if a player does leave that he has to stand out of the game for two years before he can come back and join the National Rugby League."

Stuart also accused Williams of betraying his teammates by his decision to walk out of the club without notice.

"It was a great shock because there was still four years to play on his contract," he said.

"That was the huge shock and the disappointment, that a player could turn on his mates and his team mates so abruptly.

"It's very easy to sit back and criticise but I do believe it's wrong to be breaking a commitment in regards to a four year deal.

"I don't think that was a smart move, I think he's been given some poor advice," Stuart said.

The federal opposition has also expressed concern over the furore saying that rugby league officials need to make their sport "truly international" to discourage players fleeing overseas to play rival codes.

Opposition sports spokesman Pat Farmer says the NRL should not be persecuting Williams.

"They need to take a good long look at themselves ... look at what they're going to do in terms of turning NRL into a truly ... international sport," he told reporters in Canberra.

Williams was not to blame for chasing the dollars overseas, Mr Farmer said.

"We saw the cricketers do it many, many years ago and it will happen with sports.

"You've got soccer as a truly international sport and it's really taking a great hold here in Australia. Of course rugby always has done."

Creating an international sport was the only way the NRL was going to survive, Mr Farmer said.

"And that means the consolidation of teams whether we like it or not.

"We'd all like to have a team in our own backyard but at the end of the day, it's important that we look at regions and we look at taking the game a lot further than where it is ... in the backyards of NSW and, of course, Queensland."

Also, in a communication from France, Player manager Greg Keenan has denied having anything to do with NRL star Sonny Bill Williams' venture.

Keenan has issued an e-mail from France where he said he was "working on a number of high profile rugby union deals".

But he stressed: "A deal involving Sonny Bill Williams is not one of them and none of them involve inducing any player to breach any contract."

Keenan strongly refuted a News Ltd report on Tuesday which said he was believed to be a conduit between French rugby club Toulon, where Williams was headed, and Khoder Nasser, described as "the architect of the deal".

Nasser has denied being Williams' manager.

"I have no knowledge of any deal Sonny may or may not have done in France," Keenan wrote.

"This false speculation is probably a result of my company having just completed a contract with RC Toulon for former Wallaby Matt Henjak and the fact that we are currently setting up an office in that city.

"I am deeply offended by the accusations that I am inducing players to breach contracts."

Keenan said he had arranged to meet NRL chief executive David Gallop when he returned to Sydney "to have a private discussion about the French rugby union market and its implications for player contracts in the NRL."

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