Sonny Bill Williams is among the rugby players who won’t be playing in the 2014 Auckland Nines tournament, according to Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson.
The National Rugby League won’t include any Tricolours players who were part of the Australia or New Zealand squads at the World Cup, which Australia won over New Zealand, the team Williams was playing for.
The Auckland Nines is being played at Eden Park on February 15 and 16.
It’s described as “New Zealand’s biggest summer event,” which showcases “the world’s greatest Rugby League talent.” All 16 NRL teams and 256 star players will be playing, vying to win a share of the prize money of over $2 million Australian dollars.
Sydney Roosters World Cup stars, including Sonny Bill Williams, will not play in the inaugural Auckland Nines tournament next month, coach Trent Robinson says.
The Roosters’ priority is the World Club Challenge, which is a week after the Nines. Robinson said his team would not be able to properly prepare for the clash with Wigan if they also played in the short-form tournament.
“We haven’t decided 100 per cent on our team for the Nines but it’s pretty hard to play a World Cup and then get ready for the Nines and a World Club Challenge,” Robinson told AAP.
“Our focus is the World Club Challenge so for the Australian and Kiwi boys there would have to be a fairly good reason for them to play in the Nines.
“I think it’s too short a preparation for those guys to play.”
At the same time, under tournament regulations, the Nines have to play one of their top five paid players, in addition to 12 of their top 25 players.
AAP speculates that half-back Mitchell Pearce and club legend Brad Fittler will lead the team.
“I’m not sure yet if Mitchell is playing,” Robinson said.
“I think it’s a unique form of the game and it’s a unique promotion for the game. It is a bit of expansion for the NRL in another form for schools or internationally but whether it will help with the 13-a-side game I’m not sure.”