Sonny Bill Williams has admitted what we all knew already – when it comes to the battle of the codes, there’s no doubting which is tougher.
He is aiming to become the first man to win World Cups in both rugby union and rugby league, having triumphed with the All Blacks in 2011.
Asked how league’s World Cup compares with his experience two years ago, he said: “Rugby union is a bigger sport globally, but rugby league is a lot tougher.
“In union I played in the backs, kicking stones with the pretty boys and doing my hair, while in league I’m in the middle doing the hard yards. It’s a very tough sport and a tough competition.”
Now he is just desperate to get going, having sat out last week’s 50-0 warm-up win over the Cook Islands.
“It’s just a good feeling to be back. It’s like being in the All Blacks – you’ve got your pranksters and your serious guys, but it’s just a good bunch of fellas and you become like brothers. You’re playing for one another and I think that’s a unique thing we have as Kiwis.
“I’m really excited. I asked the coach if I could play last week but I needed a couple of weeks to get used to the game-plan, but now I’m raring to go – if I get picked.
“I told the coach I wouldn’t come if the boys didn’t want me, but they wanted me here and things are going well. Hopefully we can start the campaign well against Samoa.”
He added: “Having been out for so long playing a different sport, I probably couldn’t have dreamed of how well this season has gone. When I decided to stay in league for another season (he will stay with the Roosters for 2014), I couldn’t think of anything better than representing my country in a World Cup. I’m just happy to be here and hopefully able to put on that black jersey again.
“Five years ago I couldn’t have imagined (winning both World Cups) in my wildest dreams, but there’s a lot of hard work to be done.
“I just do what I do, keep it humble, work hard, do all my extras and try to gain my team-mates’ respect by doing the things you don’t see on the TV. Everything that happens above that is a bonus. I just try to base my game on hard work.”
Williams admits he now approaches life differently after learning lessons over the last five years.
“One of the biggest things I learned from the way I left rugby league in the first place is that life’s not all about sport. You finish at 32 or 33 and you’ve still got your whole life to live. That was a big learning experience and very humbling, but I’ve become a better person for it.
“Now I’m very content with the man I see in the mirror and I’m a lot more confident than I was when I was 22 or 23. I cop a lot of criticism, but I’ve a lot of support as well and I try to thrive off that. When I walk the streets I get a lot of love and respect, and when I play I do it for those people and my family.”