WELLINGTON Sonny Bill Williams will sit out the Auckland Blues Super Rugby clash with the Queensland Reds in Samoa on Friday to give the All Blacks centre more time to recover from a knee injury ahead of clashes against the British and Irish Lions.
The 31-year-old two-time World Cup winner, who made a late return to Super Rugby after suffering an Achilles injury at the Rio Games, was not considered for the match after picking up the injury in last week's 16-16 draw with the Waikato Chiefs.
Williams has also battled concussion symptoms this season and with the Blues due to play the Lions next Wednesday at Eden Park, coach Tana Umaga opted to give him more time to recover for that game.
After spending all of 2016 in New Zealand's sevens programme and having to deal with a spate of injuries, Williams has slowly got back into his groove with each game played and is expected to make Steve Hansen's All Blacks squad for the Lions series.
Fellow All Blacks contender George Moala will also miss the Blues' game, the first Super Rugby match to be held in Samoa.
"We know this is a special game and a special occasion for the Blues to bring a home game to Samoa," Umaga said in a statement.
"We have a significant number of our club who have heritage in Samoa, including myself, and it is a privilege for so many of our team to return home to play in front of friends and family.
"At the same time we have a number of players who really need some time out after an extremely heavy load so they can freshen to be considered for the game against the Lions only four days after we return."
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford)