Sonny Bill Williams a win for Toronto Wolfpack but also Samoa and Rugby League World Cup officials


Wood also confirmed his hopes of kickstarting a Gallipoli Peace Cup between armed forces’ teams from Australia, New Zealand, Turkey and Great Britain around Anzac Day every year – and at the historic Turkish site.

As for Williams’ potential involvement at rugby league’s showpiece event, Wood said: “Sonny Bill was one of the greatest attractions at the 2013 World Cup, it was memorable for me when New Zealand played Samoa at Warrington and he slipped over the dead-ball line without getting the ball down, which brought the game alive.

Sonny Bill Williams had daughter Imaan by his side after he farewelled international rugby on Friday night.Credit:Getty

“He’s a quality athlete and if athletes like him are playing rugby league that is the best thing that can happen.”

Williams ended his All Blacks career with a 40-17 win against Wales at the Rugby World Cup on Friday night, but this week spoke about his hopes of seeing more Pacific Islanders included on the coaching staff.

He can play for Samoa or New Zealand if he returns to rugby league, and was heavily pursued by Nigel Vagana to play for the tiny Pacific nation at the 2013 World Cup.

Williams, who holds a Samoan passport , visited the country in 2014 during an NRL promotion while playing for the Sydney Roosters.

YouTube footage featured Williams telling a packed audience: “I’m embarrassed I can’t speak Samoan, but I tend to show how proud I am by acknowledging [my heritage] with my tattoos.”

Samoan coach Matt Parish would have loved Williams at Eden Park on Saturday afternoon as his team were stunned 44-20 by Fiji.

He was naturally disappointed and reiterated the need for his team to play more games.

“I need to be a bit careful here, but the fact is Tonga have some momentum, and on the back of talking to influential people in the NRL they’ve been able to get [more] games,” Parish said.

“It’s deservedly so. [But] we need games. You can’t have New Zealand playing four games and we play one. How is that fair? How do we get players, money, sponsorship?”

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Parish said Samoa were not approached to play against the Great Britain Lions, ”but we should have been, and why should New Zealand play them twice?”

Wood, meanwhile, said he had already started work on trying to introduce the Gallipoli Peace Cup.

“We’d love to have it up and running in 2020 but it’s more likely to be 2021,” Wood said.

“We just need commitments from the armed services of all of the countries. Turkey are very keen to stage this, and rugby league is one of the few sports that brings together the four nations.

“Everyone understands the Anzac story, and rugby league has embraced that story over the years. This is a great opportunity to position rugby league outside of its normal market and show how the sport can bring countries together that were formerly enemies.”

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