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Sonny Bill Williams returns to Australian rugby league

September 5, 2020 GMT
Sonny Bill Williams of the Sydney Roosters National Rugby League team passes a ball during a training session in Sydney, August 15, 2020. Ex-New Zealand All Blacks star Williams is set to play in the National Rugby League for the first time since 2014 after being included on the Roosters' interchange bench for a Grand Final rematch against the Canberra Raiders on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020. (Dean Lewins/AAP Image via AP)
Sonny Bill Williams of the Sydney Roosters National Rugby League team passes a ball during a training session in Sydney, August 15, 2020. Ex-New Zealand All Blacks star Williams is set to play in the National Rugby League for the first time since 2014 after being included on the Roosters' interchange bench for a Grand Final rematch against the Canberra Raiders on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020. (Dean Lewins/AAP Image via AP)

SYDNEY (AP) — Former All Blacks star Sonny Bill Williams made his much-hyped return to the National Rugby League on Saturday, a limited 14-minute playing stint helping his Sydney Roosters to beat the Canberra Raiders 18-6.

He was hit hard by Raiders player Dunamis Lui on his first involvement in the second half, but still managed to get an offload pass to halfback Luke Keary and finished with four touches of the ball.

Williams left the field with eight minutes to play in his first game since turning out in the English Super League for the Toronto Wolfpack in March.

“I love being back in the game,” he said. “It was pretty fast. I know there’s been a lot of talk about me coming back but, for me, it’s just about me playing alongside some of these guys.”

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James Tedesco scored two tries to lead the Roosters to victory. His second was the most important, taking the team’s lead to 12 points midway through the second half.

Williams’ first NRL game since 2014 came after he was included on the Roosters’ bench for a 2019 grand final rematch against the Raiders. His team is now up to third place.

He signed a short-term deal to return to the NRL champion Roosters after the Wolfpack withdrew from the Super League in July because of travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The 35-year-old Williams had to spend two weeks in quarantine after returning to Australia.

He initially forged a reputation as a hard-hitting, hard-running forward for the Canterbury Bulldogs in the NRL before switching to rugby union.

Williams played 58 tests for the All Blacks and was part of the squads that won World Cup titles in 2011 and 2015, spending two seasons in the NRL with the Roosters in between. He also played for New Zealand in the 2015–16 World Rugby Sevens Series and at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

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