SBW makes return from bench

Sonny Bill Williams will make his long-awaited return to rugby union when Counties Manukau face Auckland in the New Zealand Cup on Wednesday.

The 29-year-old centre only returned to the sport on Monday after the conclusion of a two-year stint with Australian rugby league outfit the Sydney Roosters.

Williams won the last of his 19 Test caps for the All Blacks in 2012, but is expected to be fast-tracked into their squad for the end-of-year tour should he come through his rugby union return unscathed.

While All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has hinted that he will be considered for the November Tests, Williams is looking no further than his provincial return.

'It's step-by-step. I'm at Counties and if you think about those [other] things, nothing falls into place. My job now is to play good footy at Counties and earn my stripes there,' Williams told

Head coach of Counties and former All Blacks centre Tana Umaga has selected Williams on the bench for Wednesday's match.

'He will cover the midfield for us,' said Umaga. 'It's a tough old ask to get him to slot into the wing, it's not something he is used to.

'It's hard to be defending with a lot of people around you and then all of a sudden being stuck out on the wing all by yourself, covering high balls and getting back on defence.

'Our expectations of Sonny is that he just needs to learn the game again. Part of that is our role in giving him an introduction to the intricacies of rugby and helping him out there before he goes with the All Blacks on the end-of-year tour.'

Photo: Simon Watts/Getty Images