1 NEWS Sport Presenter
All Blacks star Sonny Bill Williams is set to make a return to the rugby field a week earlier than expected.
Williams' ban for his red card in the second Lions Test is due to be lifted after this Friday night's "Game of Three Halves" encounter, featuring the All Blacks' squad against the Counties-Manukau and Taranaki provincial teams.
1 NEWS understands Williams will play for a Counties "B" team the following day at the Bombay Rugby Club just south of Auckland.
The union's two "B" teams will face each other in the afternoon match.
It's understood the All Blacks are keen for Williams to see some sort of action before next week's opening Bledisloe Cup Test in Sydney.
He hasn't played for nearly two months, after being sent off in the All Blacks'-Lions Test match in Wellington on July 1.
New Zealand Rugby have responded to the warnings from world renowned neuropathologist Dr Bennet Omalu, saying they and World Rugby are doing everything they can to ensure the game is safe for children.
NZR said in a statement there was plenty of international research on head injuries in contact sport but the current consensus from the latest Berlin International Conference on Concussion in Sport is that more is required.
"For the moment, we still believe there are huge benefits for young and older people, to play and participate in any sport.
"In rugby, we do offer younger players the non-contact version of the game, Rippa Rugby. The safety of children in rugby is our highest priority and to this end we closely follow and participate in the ongoing conversation on concussion.
"We believe this ensures the well-being of our participants is optimised while retaining the essence of what it means to play rugby."
The statement comes after Dr Omalu, told TVNZ1's Breakfast today that he thinks children under the age of 18 shouldn't play contact sports.
Dr Omalu was portrayed by actor Will Smith in the 2015 film Concussion which detailed his struggle against the NFL to have his discovery of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in players accepted.
"The big six are rugby, (American) football, boxing, ice hockey, mixed martial arts and wrestling," he told Breakfast.
"If your child plays any of these games, even for one season, there is a 100 per cent risk of exposure to permanent brain damage."
"Each and every parent must ask themselves, 'do I love rugby more than I love my child?'"
In May this year, 19-year-old Wellington rugby player Daniel Baldwin died after suffering a head injury during a club match.