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Sonny Bill Williams in New Zealand 7s squad for Rio Olympics season

Liam Messam, Akira Ioane and Ardie Savea are also among an enviable squad.
Aug 19th 2015, 9:51 AM 6,439 6

NEW ZEALAND SEVENS have named 15-a-side stars Sonny Bill Williams and Liam Messam in their squad for the 2015/16, one that culminates in the Rio Olympics next summer.

All Blacks' Sonny Bill Williams during the Haka Williams is set for involvement at the Rio Olympics if he can thrive in sevens. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

Joining All Blacks pair Messam and Williams in head coach Gordon Tietjens’s 16-man group are promising back rows Ardie Savea and Akira Ioane, as well as Auckland flyer Ben Lam, all three of those men having played international sevens before.

All Blacks Messam and Williams will not play Super Rugby in 2016 as they instead turn their focus towards ensuring their sevens skills are peaking by the time the Olympics arrive.

Messam is something of a sevens expert, having won gold medals at the 2006 and 2010 Commonwealth Games, although Williams will now have to adapt to the seven-man code after playing rugby league and union throughout his career.

Regular sevens international Scott Curry captains the New Zealand squad, while other specialists like Joe Webber, Tim Mikkelson and DJ Forbes will be vital to the Kiwis’ hopes at the Olympics.

Talented 18-year-old Reiko Ioane, the younger brother of the exceptional 20-year-old Akira, is also part of a squad that promises to play some highly-watchable sevens under Tietjens.

Ardie Savea with Tolu Latu and Adam Ashley-Cooper Ardie Savea had a brilliant 2015 season for the Hurricanes. Source: Photosport/Marty Melville/INPHO

“We know what Liam can do and he will certainly give us some new options up front,” said Tietjens of Messam. ”He’s a hugely experienced sevens player having won two Commonwealth Games gold medals and been part of Sevens World Series winning New Zealand teams.

Sonny Bill Williams is a great athlete and has shown he can adapt very easily to the demands of rugby. I see him adjusting very well to the fast pace of sevens. He’ll be a great attacking weapon with his speed, strength and uncanny ability to offload.

“We’re really pleased he’s committed to the full season. He knows competition for places will be intense so he’s giving himself the best chance of making the team for Rio.”

New Zealand Sevens squad for 2015/16:

Dylan Collier (Waikato)
Scott Curry (Bay of Plenty)
Sam Dickson (Canterbury)
DJ Forbes (Counties Manukau)
Gillies Kaka (Hawke’s Bay)
Akira Ioane (Auckland)
Rieko Ioane (Auckland)
Ben Lam (Auckland)
Liam Messam (Waikato)
Tim Mikkelson (Waikato)
Ardie Savea (Wellington)
Sherwin Stowers (Counties Manukau)
Sam Vaka (Counties Manukau)
Beaudein Waaka (Taranaki)
Joe Webber (Waikato)
Sonny Bill Williams (Counties Manukau)

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Murray Kinsella

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