Sonny Bill Williams has called time on his rugby career in order to focus his energy on a return to the boxing ring.
Having switched codes from rugby league in 2008, Williams represented New Zealand at three Rugby World Cups, lifting the Webb Ellis Cup in 2011 and 2015. He also played for his country on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series and at the Olympic Games in Rio.
We take a look at five of his most memorable matches in an All Blacks jersey.
England 16-26 New Zealand, Twickenham, 6 November, 2010
Williams had appeared for the Barbarians against Australia in Sydney, during his time with Toulon, but his much-anticipated entrance into the full test arena with the All Blacks arrived at Twickenham 17 months later. In taking the field he became the first player in almost 90 years to represent New Zealand in union having already done so in league.
And, All Blacks fans had to wait a little over 16 minutes to get a glimpse of what Williams could add to the team, as he drew two tackles in midfield and supplied a deft offload to Jerome Kaino in support. Kaino in turn spun the ball out wide to Hosea Gear and New Zealand were in for the first try of the match.
It was a trick Williams almost repeated in the second half, when he shrugged off the attention of Mike Tindall and Shontayne Hape, but the All Blacks were unable to capitalise. New Zealand won the match by 10 points, and the following week Williams was named player of the match as Scotland were beaten 49-3 at Murrayfield.
New Zealand 8-7 France, Eden Park, 23 October, 2011
Williams had started the opening match of Rugby World Cup 2011, against Tonga in Auckland, but was used mainly from the replacements’ bench as the tournament progressed. That was the role he would fulfil once again as the All Blacks returned to Eden Park to contest the final against France.
New Zealand had beaten Les Bleus 37-17 in the pool stage, with Williams scoring the team’s fifth and final try. However, the hosts had suffered a number of injuries on the road to the final, most notably to fly-half Dan Carter, and the showpiece match would be a much tighter affair.
Williams replaced Ma’a Nonu in the closing stages and helped the All Blacks close out victory.
New Zealand 22-0 Australia, Eden Park, 25 August, 2012
As Williams’ first contract with New Zealand Rugby was coming to an end, the centre was beginning to have more and more of an influence on the team.
He started all three of the June tests against Ireland, scoring a brace of tries in the third as the tourists were beaten 60-0 in Hamilton. However, Williams saved his best performance for last, following a late call-up to the All Blacks squad for the first two Bledisloe Cup matches against Australia.
Williams had already committed to play in Japan, ahead of a return to rugby league, when his All Blacks contract finished, but in back-to-back wins against the Wallabies his form suggested he was just settling into the team. At Eden Park on 25 August, 2012, Williams made 71 metres, beat four defenders and provided six offloads in a player-of-the-match performance.
New Zealand 34-17 Australia, Twickenham, 31 October, 2015
Williams was once again used primarily as a replacement during the All Blacks’ run to the Rugby World Cup 2015 final, as he started only two of his side’s seven matches.
In the final, he replaced Conrad Smith at half-time and was involved almost immediately as his offload found centre partner Nonu, who danced through the Wallabies defence and over the goal-line from 45 metres out.
Australia hit back to narrow their deficit to 21-17 at one stage, but Williams played his part in the All Blacks revival. He also displayed his willingness to play, throwing an offload out of a tackle to Ben Smith as time ran out, which the full-back gleefully kicked into touch to end the match.
Following the final whistle, Williams gave his winner’s medal to a young fan, Charlie Line, as he attempted to get onto the Twickenham turf.
New Zealand 40-17 Wales, Tokyo Stadium, 1 November, 2019
Four years later, Williams made his last appearance in the famous black jersey as he helped New Zealand win the RWC 2019 bronze final against Wales.
In the 42nd minute, fans were treated to a classic piece of Williams play as he absorbed tackles from Owen Watkin and Jonathan Davies and was still able to find the perfect pop-pass to Ryan Crotty on his outside.
The try helped give the All Blacks a 35-10 lead on the night, and ensured that Williams would finish his test career with another medal draped around his neck. The centre ended his international career having scored 13 tries in 58 matches for the All Blacks, of which he won 52.