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Williams the highest-paid player in rugby history

sports reporter

LONDON — New Zealand rugby star Sonny Bill Williams will be unveiled as the highest-paid player in the history of either code of rugby next week after agreeing a two-year deal with Toronto Wolfpack.

The 34-year-old has agreed to return to the 13-man code with the Super League newcomers, who will pay him a reported £2,6m annual salary — a figure which exceeds the total annual spend of every other league club in the northern hemisphere.

Only £150 000 of Williams’ wages will count on the salary cap due to the marquee-player ruling, which was implemented to attract major signings into the competition. The dual-code international’s signature for the Wolfpack supersedes any other deal struck in the competition’s history.

Toronto, who have made no secret of their desire to revolutionise league since their formation in 2017, are expected to confirm his signing in London next week, having spent weeks negotiating a deal with Williams, who featured for New Zealand at the World Cup where the All Blacks lost to England in the semi-finals. The Wolfpack coach, Brian McDermott, met him midway through the tournament to try to convince him to sign for 2020.

Williams’s return to league — the sport in which he began before departing for rugby union in 2008, then returning to league in 2013-14, winning the NRL title twice — means almost every single team the Wolfpack visit in 2020 receive a boost in gate receipts. Williams’ debut would probably come in a double-header at Headingley in February, as the Wolfpack start against Castleford alongside a game between Leeds and Hull.

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