Sonny Bill Williams hasn’t wasted any time finding his feet in the shift from World Cup winner to rugby sevens novice.
Along with Super Rugby players Ardie Savea, Akira and Rieko Ioane plus Ben Lam, Williams attended his first All Blacks sevens training camp this week in Cambridge.
Coach Sir Gordon Tietjens is impressed with the way Williams is soaking up the sevens’ knowledge.
“In Sonny Bill’s case, he’s never played the game of sevens, so he’s just thirsty for information,” Tietjens said on Wednesday.
“He’s taking a lot in and has certainly performed really well over the last three days.
“He’s got a challenge and a dream and a goal, and it’s to go to the Olympics – to be the best he can be. He’s nervous, but he’s also coming into this camp with a lot of confidence.”
Tietjens said the players looked up to Williams and were learning from him, but the two-time World Cup winner was well aware he needed to prove himself in sevens.
First and foremost, Williams needed to find a position.
“I’m looking to play him in the forwards but, at the same time, we’ve got different phases in different games where we’ll put him into the backs as well – he’ll be a handful for any opposition,” Tietjens said.
“But getting a real understanding of the game and the position that I want him to play in is probably key at the moment.”
He said Williams had absorbed a surprising amount of information in just three days, from video and blackboard sessions to on-field work.
Exactly when Williams would make his sevens debut wasn’t clear yet, Tietjens added.
“I’m not too sure whether he’ll play Wellington – we’ve got to find the right time to put him out there.
“He certainly could be in Wellington, more than likely he will be in Wellington, but we want to make sure that he’s really right and ready to go.”
Tietjens has named Tim Mikkelson as All Blacks Sevens captain for the remaining eight matches of the world series.
He takes over from Scott Curry, who dislocated his shoulder in the opening round in Dubai, requiring surgery which has ruled him out of the rest of the season.