AAP Rugby

NZ deny Sonny Bill out of World Cup report

By AAP Newswire

Defending champions New Zealand have moved to quash media reports that veteran midfielder Sonny Bill Williams is about to withdraw from the Rugby World Cup because of injury.

New Zealand media were buzzing on Sunday following a report that the 34-year-old Williams, who is preparing for his third World Cup, may be about to become the second All Black forced out of the tournament in Japan before it begins.

Rookie rower Luke Jacobson, 22, pulled out of the tournament on Friday after displaying previously undiagnosed symptoms of concussion.

Williams appeared at the All Blacks' first training session in Japan with a heavily-strapped right leg.

The former NRL star has played only a handful of matches this season because of a variety of injuries, including shoulder, knee and calf problems. He has played only 40 matches in total since the 2015 World Cup because of a mounting series of injuries.

At a news conference in Japan on Sunday an All Blacks spokesman rejected speculation that Williams would return home and be replaced by fellow inside centre Ngani Laumape.

The All Blacks are due to name a team on Thursday for their blockbuster first World Cup match against South Africa in Yokohama on Saturday.

Williams is not expected to be part of that lineup.