SONNY Bill Williams would prefer not to leave the Chiefs and All Blacks for club rugby in Japan, but said he must honour a handshake agreement made in France three years ago.
The 17-test All Black, who is just starting to reach his potential as a rugby player following his time in the NRL with the Canterbury Bulldogs, will leave for the Panasonic Wild Knights after his Chiefs commitments finish this year.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Williams revealed he had shaken hands on the deal with a Panasonic official before he left French rugby club Toulon for New Zealand to try his hand at being an All Black.
His deal with the Japanese club is thought to be worth about $NZ1.5 million for 12 games. He will then return to the NRL, probably with the Sydney Roosters, although he refused to confirm that yesterday because he said he hadn't signed a contract.
Williams will not play in this year's Rugby Championship against Australia, South Africa and Argentina, but said he hadn't closed the door to the All Blacks.
"One day I would love to come back, but in saying that I'm not going to hold my breath," he said. "I've chosen my path and now I've got to walk it."
Williams, also the New Zealand heavyweight boxing champion, plans to have his next fight in November - during his stint in Japan.