Sonny Bill Williams will have little time to celebrate should he help New Zealand’s Sevens squad win an Olympic gold medal – after he was named in the All Blacks squad for the upcoming Rugby Championship.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has kept faith with the bulk of the squad that swept Wales in a three-test series in June, though Damian McKenzie and Seta Tamanivalu have been dropped and Charlie Ngatai was not considered due to concussion symptoms.
With the Olympic Sevens tournament running from August 9-11, Williams is expected to miss the Rugby Championship opener against Australia in Sydney on August 20.
Hansen, who last week extended his contract with the world champions through the 2019 World Cup in Japan, said that while winning the Rugby Championship was the primary goal it was also important to develop understanding in the squad.
He says: “One is to re-establish our team, from a leadership and playing point of view.
“The second goal is to grow the understanding and confidence of our newer players, both on and off the track; and thirdly, we want to play a standard of rugby that we can all be proud of and excited by.
“The quality of the opposition we’ll face… will require a growth in our physicality, intensity and the standard of our preparation. How well we do that will be reflected in our results.”
The All Blacks will kick off a two-day camp on Thursday, though the Hurricanes’ Dane Coles, TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, and Ardie and Julian Savea will not join up until after Saturday’s Super Rugby final.
Forwards: Dane Coles, Codie Taylor, Nathan Harris, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Owen Franks, Joe Moody, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Patrick Tuipulotu, Samuel Whitelock, Sam Cane, Elliot Dixon, Jerome Kaino, Kieran Read (capt), Ardie Savea, Liam Squire. Backs: Tawera Kerr-Barlow, TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Cruden, Lima Sopoaga, Ryan Crotty, Malakai Fekitoa, George Moala, Sonny Bill Williams, Israel Dagg, Waisake Naholo, Julian Savea, Ben Smith.