Toronto Wolfpack have billed Sonny Bill Williams as "rugby's LeBron James" after he joined the Super League newcomers in a move likened to David Beckham's switch to LA Galaxy.

Williams swapped codes again to sign a lucrative two-year deal with ambitious Toronto after the New Zealand centre added two Rugby World Cup titles to his union CV.

The Wolfpack have pulled off a major coup to land the 34-year-old following their promotion to the top flight in only their third season.

Toronto chairman and chief executive Bob Hunter said the acquisition of Williams can raise the profile of rugby league across the globe.

"The excitement he will bring to the sport of rugby league in this country will be incredible," said Hunter. "Having someone of his talent join the Wolfpack will greatly raise the profile of the club, and also help move the game forward globally.

"Sonny is a phenomenal athlete and we believe he is rugby's LeBron James and his addition to our league is comparable to when David Beckham joined LA Galaxy."

Wolfpack head coach Brian McDermott expects Williams to make a big impact in his first stint in Super League.

"We have signed one of the highest profile rugby players, if not sports stars in the world and he will enhance the world of rugby in Toronto and certainly push the brand of the Wolfpack onto another level," said the former Leeds Rhinos boss.

"The main point of excitement for our club is that we are signing a great rugby league player who has the hunger to be successful in Super League much as he was in the NRL and rugby union."

Leicester Tigers issued a hands-off warning after Toronto were linked with Manu Tuilagi, while fellow England centre Ben Te'o is also reportedly on their radar.

Scottish Rugby has been fined £70,000 and ordered to apologise after threatening to take legal action if the Rugby World Cup clash with Japan was cancelled due to Typhoon Hagibis.

The crunch Pool A clash showdown between the hosts and Scotland at International Stadium Yokohama last month was in doubt with one of the most destructive typhoons in decades approaching.

Scottish Rugby chief executive Mark Dodson said the organisation had received legal opinion for a potential case against World Rugby if the match was called off, with Scotland needing a win to reach the quarter-finals.

Japan beat Gregor Townsend's side in a contest that went ahead as scheduled and Scotland have now been sanctioned for Dodson's remarks, though a second charge brought against an unnamed Scottish Rugby spokesperson was dismissed.

A statement from the world governing body said: "World Rugby strongly believed the comments, which suggested an unfair and disorganised treatment of all teams, to be inappropriate and ill-judged at a time when Japan was preparing for the largest and most destructive typhoon in decades. 

"The international federation believed that such comments brought the game into disrepute, not only in relation to World Rugby's handling of an extraordinary situation but also in the message that it sent to the Japanese people. 

"Having considered all the evidence, including submissions by World Rugby and the SRU, the committee determined in respect of the first charge that comments attributed to Mark Dodson amounted to misconduct and brought the game into disrepute. 

"In respect of the second charge, the available evidence was insufficient for the committee to be satisfied on the balance of probabilities as to the source of the offending remarks and therefore it dismissed the charge."

Scottish Rugby said it would reflect on this outcome and further consider all our options, which may include arbitration.

Tendai Mtawarira has retired from international rugby just four days after helping South Africa to Rugby World Cup glory in Japan.

The 34-year-old prop put in an all-action performance as the Springboks dominated England 32-12 in Yokohama to win the Webb Ellis Cup for a record-equalling third time.

Mtawarira, nicknamed 'The Beast', steps away from South Africa duty having amassed 117 caps, during which time he also won a Tri Nations and a Rugby Championship with his country.

"I've been privileged to play this great game and achieve many career goals over the last 12 years of playing senior rugby," Mtawarira said.

"I've been blessed to have been part of teams that achieved so much success over the years, and I have many memories to cherish forever, but I can honestly say that winning the Rugby World Cup is the perfect ending and cherry on top.

"I am grateful for the opportunities afforded to me by many top coaches at the Springboks and the Sharks, and grateful to my numerous team mates in green and gold, and black and white, over the years."

After making his Sharks debut in 2006, Mtawarira received his first Springboks cap two years later and only Victor Mayfield and Bryan Habana have appeared more times in a South Africa jersey.

South Africa Rugby president Mark Alexander added in a statement: "'Beast' is someone who never complained, always put in the hard work and simply got on with his job in his typically unassuming way.

"When he first got an opportunity at the Sharks, he rode a bicycle to training, which perfectly sums up not only his humbleness, but his desire to make it to the top. He worked very hard to achieve what he has and we’re all very proud of him.

"'Beast', thank you for what you've done for South African rugby, to show that Springboks can indeed be gentle giants, and for never putting your own interests above that of the team. We salute you and will miss you in green and gold."

Siya Kolisi was left "humbled and overawed" by the incredible reception South Africa received on their return from winning the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

The Springboks made their way home on Tuesday and arrived to remarkable scenes at a Johannesburg airport, where thousands of fans gathered to celebrate their triumph.

It was a lot for captain Kolisi to take in and he thanked the nation for getting behind his side, who claimed glory by thrashing England 32-12 in the final.

"In Japan, we got a glimpse of the support back home, but this reception is something else – we can't begin to thank everyone for backing us throughout this journey," said Kolisi.

"We did this for all South Africans – ordinary people who work tirelessly all day long to care for their families and friends and ultimately make our wonderful country an even better place.

"Winning the World Cup on foreign soil was very special – and arriving home to this wonderful support is the cherry on top. We are tired but grateful, humbled and overawed – thank you."

Head coach Rassie Erasmus, who won the tactical battle of wits against opposite number Eddie Jones in Yokohama, echoed Kolisi's sentiments ahead of a trophy tour that begins in Gauteng on Thursday.

"We brought the Webb Ellis Cup home for all South Africans and we really wish we could go everywhere to thank our supporters, but unfortunately logistics and time constraints doesn't allow for that to happen this time," said Erasmus.

"I would like to agree with Siya – the support here at the airport made all the hard work and sacrifices over the last two months worth it. Thank you to everyone who came out to greet us."

New Zealand Rugby (NZR) has announced the launch of its recruitment process to replace All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen, with an appointment to be made in December. 

Hansen's eight-year tenure at the New Zealand helm ended following the Rugby World Cup bronze final win over Wales, a semi-final defeat to England having denied him a shot at a second title.

NZR confirmed the search for his successor was under way in a statement released on Wednesday, in which the organisation said it had invited "applications from a small group of coaches familiar with New Zealand's professional rugby environment".

Chairman Brent Impey revealed the process – conducted by a five-strong panel – would take place throughout November and next month, with a head coach announced prior to Christmas.

"This is a hugely exciting time for New Zealand Rugby," said Impey. "We know that the All Blacks and New Zealand have been served well by exceptional coaches, so we are well aware of the importance of the task ahead.

"We believe we have an excellent group of people on the panel, balancing the experience of winning, high-performance teams and leadership with external perspective and experience."

Eddie Jones will coach a Barbarians side including four of South Africa's Rugby World Cup winners against Fiji just two weeks after they beat his England side in the Rugby World Cup final.

Makazole Mapimpi, Tendai Mtawarira and Lukhanyo Am were in the Springboks starting line-up for their 32-12 victory over the Red Rose at International Stadium Yokohama on Saturday.

The trio are set to play under Jones at Twickenham on November 16 along with Herschel Jantjies, who was among the replacements as South Africa claimed the Webb Ellis Cup for a record-equalling third time.

Mapimpi scored his sixth try of the tournament in the final and fell just one short of Wales wing Josh Adams' tournament-leading tally in Japan.

Retiring Ireland captain Rory Best and France centre Mathieu Bastareaud have also been named in the Baa-baas squad for the Killik Cup clash with the Pacific Islanders along

The Barbarians will also face Brazil in Sao Paolo on November 20 and Wales at the Principality Stadium 10 days later.

Beauden Barrett would welcome the appointment of Ian Foster as head coach to provide "continuity" for New Zealand.

Steve Hansen's trophy-laden reign came to an end after the All Blacks failed to win an unprecedented third successive Rugby World Cup.

Assistant coach Foster is reportedly among the leading contenders to step up and replace Hansen.

Two-time World Rugby Player of the Year Barrett believes Foster fits the bill for the top job.

"He's a very intelligent coach. A great team man and hopefully we can have some continuity going forward," he told the New Zealand Herald.

"Steve's legacy is a very strong one. His win percentage speaks for itself. I think the biggest thing with Steve is the way he makes his players feel. Trust and confidence.

"We know he 100 per cent has our back. As a player that's all you can really ask for. He's taught me a lot along the way and I'm very lucky for that."

Barrett says New Zealand were happy to see South Africa lift the Webb Ellis Cup on Saturday with a defeat of an England side that dethroned them at the semi-final stage.

"To be fair we were probably supporting them. It's nice to see a Southern Hemisphere team and players that we are so familiar with and have friendships with lift the trophy," he added.

"If it couldn't be us, we were encouraging them to win."

South Africa were crowned champions of the world with the best player on the planet this weekend but not even Pieter-Steph du Toit could make the Opta team of the Rugby World Cup.

The Springboks overpowered England at International Stadium Yokohama on Saturday and lifted the Webb Ellis Cup for a third time after a commanding 32-12 victory.

Outstanding lock Du Toit was crowned World Rugby Player of the Year the following day and Rassie Erasmus was named the top coach in the world at a ceremony in Tokyo.

Yet there were no Springboks in the Opta team of the tournament, with Japan's South Africa-born back-row Pieter Labuschagne in at number seven ahead of Du Toit.

There were four New Zealand players and as many from the host nation Japan in the Opta XV.

Players had to have been on the field for at least 320 minutes, or 240 for props, to be eligible for selection, with tries, carries, metres carried, offloads, turnovers assists and tackle success contributing to earn points.

New Zealand playmaker Beauden Barrett, twice named the best player in the world, claimed the most points in the competition.

 

Opta's Rugby World Cup team of the tournament: Beauden Barrett (New Zealand), Kotaro Matsushima (Japan), Manu Tuilagi (England), Anton Lienert-Brown (New Zealand), Semi Radradra (Fiji), Richie Mo'unga (New Zealand), Gareth Davies (Wales); Joe Moody (New Zealand), Shota Horie (Japan), Kyle Sinckler (England), Maro Itoje (England), Kane Le'aupepe (Samoa), Chris Vui (Samoa), Pieter Labuschagne (Japan), Kazuki Himeno (Japan).

As South Africa celebrate a record-equalling third Rugby World Cup triumph, the newly-crowned champions are among a host of top international sides heading into a new era.

Rassie Erasmus worked wonders in a short space of time to transform the Springboks from failures into the best side in the world after taking over as head coach last March.

He has now relinquished the role to concentrate solely on his position as director of rugby, having juggled both jobs, and he will be a tough act to follow.

Steve Hansen's glorious New Zealand reign also came to an end in Japan, while Warren Gatland's long Wales tenure is over and Ireland will start life without Joe Schmidt following their quarter-final exit.

Australia are in the market for a new head coach too, and France have moved on from the man who led them in Japan. We take a look at their situations.

 

SOUTH AFRICA

Erasmus only agreed to fill in as head coach when Allister Coetzee's turbulent spell in charge came to an end, but he has ruled out staying on.

The 46-year-old became the first man to oversee a Rugby Championship and World Cup triumph in the same year, but will now focus on a job with a wide-ranging remit.

South Africa are reportedly expected to promote from within to replace Erasmus, with defence coach Jacques Nienaber the leading contender.

Mzwandile Stick and Matt Proudfoot are also members of the current coaching step up who could be in the running.

 

NEW ZEALAND

The All Blacks are likely to opt for continuity as they consider who should be charged with the task of succeeding Hansen.

New Zealand were unable to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for an unprecedented third time in a row, but Hansen has left a lasting legacy.

The 60-year-old spent 15 years on the coaching staff and was a huge success in the top job after earning a promotion.

Hansen championed his assistant, Ian Foster, to replace him. Crusaders coach Scott Robertson and Glasgow Warriors chief Dave Rennie are other possibilities.

 

AUSTRALIA

The under-pressure Michael Cheika quit as Wallabies coach after an emphatic quarter-final defeat to England.

Cheika's position had long since been called into question and the new man will take over a side sixth in the rankings and in need of a shake-up.

England head coach Eddie Jones has been linked with a second spell in charge of his country, but said before a defeat to the Springboks in the final that he has not been in contact with Rugby Australia.

Cheika said an Australian should replace him and Stephen Larkham could be in the reckoning, though Rennie may get the nod if they look overseas.

 

WALES

Wayne Pivac was confirmed as Gatland's successor last year - a reward for his success with the Scarlets.

The former policeman will have big shoes to fill, with Gatland having turned Wales into a consistent force and winning the Grand Slam in his final Six Nations.

Gatland parted by stating it would break his heart if Wales returned to the doldrums, as if his compatriot Pivac was not already aware of the standards he would be expected to maintain.

 

IRELAND

Andy Farrell gets his chance to be Ireland's main man after Schmidt decided it was time to take a break.

The experienced Englishman has made a big impact as defence coach and Irish Rugby Football Union chiefs are confident he can be a success.

One of Farrell's first jobs will be to appoint a new captain after Rory Best's retirement and he will take over a strong squad, one smarting from a World Cup quarter-final exit.

 

FRANCE

France are in need of some stability with a World Cup to come on home soil in four years' time and they will be hoping Fabien Galthie is the man to provide it.

Galthie takes over from Jacques Brunel after Les Bleus were knocked out by Wales at the quarter-final stage in Japan.

Former France captain Galthie is contracted until 2023 and could be assisted by Shaun Edwards, who has played such a big part in Wales' success under Gatland.

Pieter-Steph du Toit has won World Rugby's Player of the Year award and Rassie Erasmus took the Coach of the Year accolade, a day after South Africa won the Rugby World Cup.

Du Toit played a huge part in the Springboks becoming the first team to win the Rugby Championship and lift the Webb Ellis Cup in the same year.

The lock was presented with the gong on Sunday after being shortlisted along with team-mate Cheslin Kolbe, England flanker Tom Curry, Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones, New Zealand flanker Ardie Savea and United States hooker Joe Taufete'e.

Erasmus was named the best coach in the world after working wonders in a short space of time for the newly-crowned world champions, having only taken over in March 2018.

Former Springbok player Erasmus said: "As everybody knows I'm finishing up as head coach. I will definitely be involved as director of rugby. We are all trying to be like the All Blacks, we all know what New Zealand has done over the last 12 years - they have set the bar right up there.

"We have enjoyed the last 24 hours and we are going to enjoy the next two weeks and then start working and try to be like New Zealand, be consistent and stay number one or two in the world."

South Africa inevitably claimed the World Rugby Team of the Year award after matching the All Blacks' tally of three World Cup triumphs.

England centre Emily Scarratt received the women's World Player of the Year award at the ceremony in Tokyo.

Bill Beaumont praised Rugby World Cup hosts Japan for hosting "one of the greatest, if not the greatest" tournament after the 2019 edition climaxed with South Africa crowned champions.

World Rugby opted to take the tournament to Asia for the first time with the aim of boosting the sport's popularity on the continent.

The home nation duly provided one of the main storylines by progressing to the quarter-finals, the Brave Blossoms receiving huge support as they qualified for the knockout stages for the first time in their history.

The Springboks ended Japan's run on their way to lifting the Webb Ellis Cup, with Beaumont – who serves as World Rugby's chairman – delighted with how the six-week event panned out.

"Rugby World Cup 2019 has been one of the greatest, if not the greatest of all time, and certainly the most ground-breaking in terms of bringing the game to new audiences and attracting new fans to the sport we love," he said a day after South Africa's 32-12 final win over England.

"On behalf of the whole global rugby family, I would like to thank from the bottom of our hearts Japan and the Japanese people for being such wonderful, humble and history-making hosts.

"While South Africa will rightly take home the Webb Ellis Cup following their outstanding victory, the amazing performances of the Brave Blossoms undoubtedly brought some of the most memorable moments of the tournament."

Typhoon Hagibis caused issues for tournament organisers – with some fixtures postponed due to safety concerns – but Beaumont commended the Japanese people for their "resilience and determination" during difficult times.

Official figures released confirmed attendance numbers at 99.3 per cent for games, while a record crowd of 70,103 were at Yokohama International Stadium to witness Saturday's final.

"The way Japan reacted to the incredibly difficult events surrounding Typhoon Hagibis was a tribute to the resilience and determination of the people of this wonderful country and we continue to think about all those who lost loved ones or were affected by this tragic event," the former England international added.

"Finally, I would like to thank all 20 teams, the players, match officials, host cities and the amazing 'No Side' volunteers who all played their full part in ensuring Rugby World Cup 2019 will live long in the memory.

"Japan 2019 has broken records galore and has changed the face of rugby forever."

South Africa made history on Saturday after beating England 32-12 in the Rugby World Cup final.

The Springboks had already lifted one trophy this year after winning the Rugby Championship in August, and, in Yokohama, Rassie Erasmus' team achieved something that had eluded rivals New Zealand and Australia in the past.

In the previous five years when there has been both a Rugby Championship – or its previous incarnation the Tri Nations – and a World Cup, the winners of the first tournament had subsequently failed to also deliver success on the global stage.

South Africa succeeded where these teams failed...
 

1999: TRI NATIONS WINNERS – NEW ZEALAND, WORLD CUP WINNERS – AUSTRALIA

The All Blacks won the first two Tri Nations and made it three in four years by thrashing South Africa 28-0, beating Australia 34-15 and claiming another victory over the Springboks.

However, a 28-7 loss to the Wallabies in the final fixture suggested New Zealand were not so invincible...

At the World Cup, the great Jonah Lomu scored eight tries yet France stunned New Zealand 43-31 in the last four, with Australia then winning the final against Les Bleus.

2003: TRI NATIONS WINNERS – NEW ZEALAND, WORLD CUP WINNERS – ENGLAND

Four wins out of four delivered another Tri Nations triumph for New Zealand.

The All Blacks scored 282 points in their four World Cup pool games in Australia too before easing past South Africa 29-9 in the quarter-finals.

But Elton Flatley's accuracy from the tee consigned New Zealand to another semi-final loss and sent Australia back to the final, where Jonny Wilkinson's drop goal in Sydney delivered a famous success for England.

2007: TRI NATIONS WINNERS – NEW ZEALAND, WORLD CUP WINNERS – SOUTH AFRICA

Neither Australia nor South Africa could deny the All Blacks another Tri Nations title in 2007, though it was a Northern Hemisphere nation who would stop their run at the World Cup.

New Zealand led 13-3 in the first half of their quarter-final against France only to suffer another knockout loss to their World Cup nemesis as Yannick Jauzion scored a brilliant converted try 11 minutes from time to seal a 20-18 success.

Defending champions England beat France in the semi-final but Percy Montgomery won the battle of the boots with Wilkinson in the final as South Africa secured their second World Cup.

2011: TRI NATIONS WINNERS – AUSTRALIA, WORLD CUP WINNERS – NEW ZEALAND

In the final Tri Nations before Argentina joined to form the Rugby Championship, Graham Henry's team lost their last two matches as Australia triumphed for the first time in a decade.

The World Cup was hosted in New Zealand and after years of being the nearly men, it was the All Blacks' turn to taste global glory again.

France were their final opponents and, in a tense, low-scoring contest, New Zealand won 8-7.

2015: RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP WINNERS – AUSTRALIA, WORLD CUP WINNERS – NEW ZEALAND

Four years ago, Australia beat the other three nations to win the Rugby Championship, and came out on top of a World Cup pool that included Wales and hosts England.

The Wallabies narrowly saw off Scotland 35-34 and ousted Argentina 29-15 to set up a final with a New Zealand side that had hammered France 62-13 in the last eight.

No team had ever retained the World Cup before but Dan Carter shone on his international farewell to ensure Steve Hansen's side lifted the Webb Ellis Cup again.

Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe kicked England when they were down and Handre Pollard scored 22 points as magnificent South Africa won the Rugby World Cup final with a 32-12 victory.

The Springboks overpowered the favourites at International Stadium Yokohama on Saturday to match the mark of three World Cup wins by New Zealand.

South Africa dominated the set-piece in a brutal and relentless performance, with England unable to get going after suffering an early blow when Kyle Sinckler departed with concussion.

Pollard produced a masterclass from the tee, while Mapimpi and Kolbe crossed in the second half as South Africa became the first team to be crowned Southern Hemisphere and world champions in the same year.

Four Owen Farrell penalties were all England could muster as South Africa defended magnificently, enabling Siya Kolisi to become the first black captain to lift the Webb Ellis Cup.

Iain Balshaw says England are yet to peak as they prepare to do battle with South Africa in the Rugby World Cup final on Saturday.

Eddie Jones' side dethroned New Zealand with a magnificent performance at International Stadium Yokohama last weekend, setting up a showdown with the Springboks seven days later.

The Red Rose are favourites to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for the second time after dominating the two-time defending champions.

Balshaw, part of the squad for England's only World Cup triumph in Australia 16 years ago, believes there is more to come from the current crop ahead of the biggest game of their lives.

He told Omnisport: "I'm not sure exactly what the average age of the England squad is, but I'd guess around 27, and the majority are coming into their prime.

"We've seen young players like Sam Underhill and Tom Curry come in and be outstanding and they have years ahead of them, they will only get better.

"I think these are such exciting times for English rugby, not only looking at the players who are out in Japan, but also those who did not make the squad and the strength in depth there is.

"There is great talent in the Premiership and academies, the game really is in great shape in England."

Balshaw said England must match the Springboks' physicality and be prepared to mix up their game if they are to emulate the class of 2003.

The jet-heeled former back added: "You've got to meet fire with fire. You have to be prepared for that big first collision and make sure you execute the plans that have been put in place.

"England have done that really well so far, they have been so well drilled and been expansive, but if they need to win playing boring rugby, then so be it. When you get into a final, winning is all that matters."

Phil Vickery says England must come out all guns blazing to prevent South Africa's 'Bomb Squad' from detonating their dreams of lifting the Rugby World Cup.

England are favourites to be crowned champions for a second time in Yokohama on Saturday after dethroning New Zealand with one of the great World Cup performances last weekend.

Eddie Jones' side can expect a massive battle against the ferocious Rugby Championship holders, who have the strength in depth to be able to bring fearsome forwards - christened the 'Bomb Squad' - off the bench.

Vickery, a World Cup winner 16 years ago before captaining his country in a defeat to South Africa in the 2007 final, warned England must use their full artillery and execute plans to perfection to ensure it is mission accomplished.

The former skipper told Omnisport: "South Africa are not going to do anything that England won't be expecting from them. They are going to be ultra-physical and confrontational, it's going to be a massive battle. 

"England are capable of winning that battle, no doubt about it, but if you'd have given me £100 before the tournament to back a winner, I would have put it on South Africa. It can't really come as a surprise they are in the final, they are the champions of the Southern Hemisphere. 

"Yes, they may not be playing spectacular rugby, but they are playing winning rugby and that is all that matters in a World Cup.

"England have the firepower, we have seen that in their incredible win over the All Blacks, but so do South Africa.

"We have to take them on physically, there is no avoiding that, but it is important we move them around and try to break the game up. Opportunities will come if they can do that and keep their discipline. 

"If England can go out and play with the same intensity they did against the All Blacks, that will be hard for any team to live with."

Vickery believes England's big-game experience should ensure they can handle the pressure and the former prop urged them to grasp an opportunity that can change their lives forever.

"There are guys who have played in Grand Slam deciders, a Lions Test series, European finals, et cetera. They know all about how to handle the big occasion." he added.

"The lovely thing they have ahead of them is a life-changing opportunity. Their names can be forever etched in history if they can win on Saturday. 

"They will have millions of people who are with them for every collision, every lineout, every scrum - looking back, it's amazing to think you are involved in something like that and I'm excited for them."

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