Sonny Bill Williams will miss the All Blacks’ entire Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup series after being ruled out for up to nine months with an Achilles injury.
Centre Williams was taken to hospital in an ambulance after being taken from the field in New Zealand’s opening Olympic rugby sevens loss to Japan in Rio, and NZRU CEO Steve Tew confirmed the worst on Wednesday morning.
“He has a partial rupture of his Achilles tendon, which means he will be out of rugby for six to nine months,” Tew told NZ’s Newstalk ZB Radio.
The injury means the Wallabies are assured of facing a relatively inexperienced All Blacks centre combination in all three Bledisloe Cup Tests, with veterans Maa Nonu and Conrad Smith retired from international rugby after last year’s World Cup.
Williams had been due to miss only the first Test against Australia in Sydney on August 20 due to his Olympic commitments, before returning for the rest of the Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup matches.
Tew expected All Blacks coach Steve Hansen and fellow selectors to discuss a squad replacement for Williams shortly.
Depending on the extent of the injury, Williams could also miss the start of next year’s Super Rugby season with his new club, the Auckland Blues.