It seems Sonny Bill Williams has had several helpers in his French rugby union defection. It’s now come to light a New Zealand-born sports lawyer based out of the United Kingdom was a key player in the walk-out arrangement.
Despite denials, Duncan Sandlant was the mystery man photographed with Williams in a taxi leaving Heathrow airport last Monday.
In a major boost to the Bulldogs’ and the NRL’s NSW Supreme court injunction, The Sunday Telegraph can also reveal:
* Toulon recruitment agent Nicolas Pironneau is the other chief architect behind the Williams deal;
* Toulon players were informed Williams was the newest addition to their roster last Monday;
* Williams visited a Sydney bank on July 24 to withdraw all his money and transfer it to a London account;
* Bulldogs doctor Hugh Hazard has dismissed suggestions Williams was told to sign until the end of the 2012 season because he had a dodgy knee as “rubbish”.
The other man who has been instrumental in the Williams treachery is French-based Toulon agent Pironneau, who initially denied having done the deal.
The agent of Toulon coach Tana Umaga and star recruit Jerry Collins, Pironneau told The Sunday Telegraph during the week: “I understand Sonny Bill wants to meet Tana and to speak with him, but that’s all. I think there is no deal done.”
But when contacted last Friday, Pironneau changed his story, admitting he was one of the masterminds of the Toulon coup.
“I made the approach with the help of his agent in Australia and he showed great interest in the idea,” Pironneau said. “When I explained to the agent that Tana Umaga was really interested in his profile, it was a great surprise to them.”
Asked the name of the agent, believed to be renegade Khoder Nasser, Pironneau replied: “No, I don’t like your question. I understand there is a problem with Sonny Bill Williams because I read the newspapers.
“I don’t want to go into this problem. You know who the agent of Sonny Bill Williams is, I think.”
Pironneau denied knowing the whereabouts of Williams and rejected reports the Kiwi league international would be paid $3million.
“It’s bulls***. In France, international French players are not paid this kind of amount,” Pironneau said.
“Dan Carter of the All Blacks is not paid that amount. For a player that comes from rugby league, a young player … no.”
Working out of London, Sandlant met Williams at Heathrow Airport last Monday. Despite being photographed sitting next to Williams in a London cab, Sandlant denied he was the man who collected the disgruntled former Bulldog.
Questioned about Williams by a London photographer during the week, Sandlant replied: “He’s stressed, very stressed and just wants to be left alone.”
But when contacted by The Sunday Telegraph about Williams, Sandlant said: “Think you have got the wrong person here.”
The deal for Williams to flee Australia for Europe was first hatched two months ago when Toulon coach and former All Blacks centre Umaga visited Sydney.