SBW ahead of schedule, says Tietjens

All Blacks Sevens coach Sir Gordon Tietjens rates Sonny Bill Williams as being ahead of schedule in his transition to the shortened form of rugby.

Williams has been picked to make his international sevens debut in the Wellington leg of the world series this weekend.

The dual rugby and league international is the one new cap in New Zealand’s 12-strong squad for the tournament.

Asked if Williams is tracking as quickly as hoped in his move from the 15-a-man game, Tietjens said: “Probably a little bit quicker really, which is really pleasing.

“But he’s been doing a lot of work, a lot of conditioning work. Fortunately he has a great work ethic, works very hard and is very professional.”

Tietjens said the biggest learning area was in just understanding the game, which was so different from 15s rugby.

He said the 1.91m, 108kg Williams would probably start in the forwards, but could equally be used in the backs.

Williams, who won a second World Cup winner’s medal with the All Blacks last year, is targeting the Rio Olympics in August, when sevens will make its entry in the Olympic programme.

Among the things that has impressed Tietjens is the 30-year-old’s “quite sublime skill sets” and his size.

Williams said he was both excited and nervous about his selection on Monday.

He said the transition to sevens had been tough and Tietjens’ legendary training sessions hadn’t disappointed.

“It’s just a whole new game and I’m pretty happy with where I’m at at the moment,” he said.

“I’ve still got a lot to learn but the best thing for myself is just to stay healthy and get out there on the training pitch and learn first-hand.”

He said he wanted to give sevens his best shot and that is why he was concentrating on the game full-time this year.

“There are so many talented players, it’s going to be really tough to make the Rio squad.”

The New Zealand line-up for Wellington also features brothers Akira and Rieko Ioane, who have both played for the All Blacks Sevens but will be making their first appearance together in the same event.

Wellington loose forward Ardie Savea returns to the side after featuring across six tournaments in 2012.

Also back are Auckland wing Ben Lam and Taranaki outside back Kurt Baker, who both last played for the team in 2014.

New Zealand, the most successful country in the series’ history, are back in seventh place on the points table after the first two rounds of this season’s 10-tournament circuit.

Their Wellington pool opponents on Saturday are Russia, Scotland and South Africa.

All Blacks Sevens: Kurt Baker (Taranaki), Sam Dickson (Canterbury), Akira Ioane (Auckland), Rieko Ioane (Auckland), Gillies Kaka (Hawkes Bay), Ben Lam (Auckland), Tim Mikkelson (Waikato), Augustine Pulu (Counties Manukau), Ardie Savea (Wellington), Regan Ware (Waikato), Sonny Bill Williams (Counties Manukau), Joe Webber (Waikato).

* All Offers and Promotions posted in this article excludes NSW residents.
Stay up to date with the latest sports news
Follow our social accounts to get exclusive content and all the latest sporting news!