Players from across the game have been paying tribute to former All Black Sonny Bill Williams after he announced his retirement from all forms of rugby this week.

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The dual-code New Zealand international made a defining impact in both union and league, having won two World Cups and a Super Rugby title in the 15-man code, and two NRL titles in the 13-man code. However, at the age of 35 he is now switching his attention back to boxing.

The ovation that he received on social media is testament to the impact he had both on and off the field during his 17-year career, which saw him hop between both codes.

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All Black Rieko Ioane described Williams as a “role model for what [he] did both on and off the field,” and that he “paved the way” for him. There are few players Ioane would have played alongside more in his career so far, having been a teammate of Williams’ with the New Zealand sevens team in 2016, the Blues and the All Blacks.

Perhaps former All Blacks hooker Keven Mealamu provided the most apposite description of his 58-cap former teammate as a “game-changer”. Mealamu said his fellow dual World Cup winner “changed the way things are seen and done. Both on and off the field,” which is undeniable, as his offloading prowess revolutionised union and made the All Blacks such a devastating attacking machine.

It is not just his teammates that are showering the former centre in glory, but many of his opponents too. Jamie Roberts called his former adversary “one of the best to do it at number 12,” while Matt Giteau said it was a “pleasure” and “scary” to face the 108kg back.

Williams will now focus on his boxing career which has been on ice since 2015. He has a 7-0 record, and formerly held the New Zealand heavyweight title in 2012 and the World Boxing Association (WBA) International heavyweight title in 2013.

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