Ne Zealand coach Sir Gordon Tietjens believes Sonny Bill Williams is nearing his rugby sevens best, and expects him to shine at this weekend’s world series tournament in Paris.
Tietjens is confident Williams’ adjustment from the 15-a-side game has reached the point where he’s poised to make a real impact in sevens.
He said Williams played particularly well in Singapore three weeks ago, even though the New Zealanders lost 12-7 in the quarter-finals to South Africa.
“I thought he had his best tournament in the black jersey,” Tietjens said.
“He’s on and up from here. I think he’s gathered so much information in the last six tournaments on how to play the game – I believe you’re going to see him showcasing all his skill sets because he’s certainly a very talented rugby player.”
Injury has forced three seasoned sevens campaigners out of Tietjens’ squad, with Liam Messam, Tim Mikkelson and DJ Forbes all absent while Scott Curry is still recovering from shoulder surgery, and is probably three or four weeks away from playing.
Kurt Baker has been named captain for Paris in their absence.
With the Rio Olympics drawing ever closer, Tietjens is keeping a watchful eye on his squad.
“You’re always concerned when you get injuries, because there’s not a massive amount of depth in sevens rugby players in New Zealand.
“There are a few concerns, but we’ve got a way to go yet.”
With only next week’s London tournament remaining after Paris, New Zealand sit third in the overall standings, 12 points behind leaders Fiji and four points astray of second-placed South Africa.
They face a tough pool in Paris, with matches against Russia and Portugal before they meet Singapore tournament winners Kenya.
All Blacks Sevens: Pita Ahki, Kurt Baker (captain), Dylan Collier, Akira Ioane, Rieko Ioane, Gillies Kaka, Sione Molia, Lewis Ormond, Augustine Pulu, Teddy Stanaway, Regan Ware, Sonny Bill Williams.