Sapporo, Japan – Sonny Bill Williams didn't get off to the start he hoped for in his debut in Japanese rugby on Sunday.

The star centre played the full 80 minutes but his Panasonic Wild Knights were defeated 25-22 by NTT Communications Shining Arcs in Japan's professional rugby league.

The Wild Knights were runners-up last season and were heavy favourites heading into Sunday's match with the addition of Williams.

Williams quit New Zealand's All Blacks to pursue more lucrative opportunities in Japan and Australia. He is reportedly earning $1.2 million for his 12-game stint in Japan.

After Japan, Williams will play in Australia's National Rugby League.

A try by hooker Tetsuya Shitara gave Panasonic a 22-3 lead four minutes into the second half but the Shining Arcs fought back with tries from Yoshio Kimishima, Samoa international Alesana Tuilagi and Hiraku Tomoigawa.

Kimishima also knocked over two conversions and two penalty goals to finish the day with 15 points as NTT picked up its first win of the season. – Sapa-AP