Sonny Bill Williams and sister Niall head to Rio in New Zealand sevens squads
Rugby World Cup star Sonny Bill Williams and his sister Niall joined the rare Olympic siblings club on Sunday when both were named in the New Zealand sevens teams for the Rio Games.
Serial code-hopper Sonny Bill, 30, has targeted the Olympics to add to his list of sporting triumphs which include winning two rugby union World Cups with the All Blacks as well as success in rugby league and professional boxing.
His sister Niall, 28, was a New Zealand touch rugby player for several years before switching to the tackle game in 2015. She is a mother of two, a twin and one of four Williams siblings,
Sonny Bill – who said before the team announcement that it would be “an amazing achievement” if he and his sister went to Brazil – made himself unavailable for Super Rugby and the June test series against Wales this year to focus on the sevens.
Fellow World Cup-winning All Black Liam Messam also gave up the 15-man game to focus on Rio. However, he missed out on the 12-man squad named on Sunday.
The men’s team will be captained by Scott Curry who returns to the side for the first time since suffering a shoulder injury in December.
The team also includes brothers Reiko and Akira Ioane.
Coach Gordon Tietjens, who has guided New Zealand to 10 world sevens titles, rated his side as medal contenders despite finishing third in this year’s world series.
“It’s going to be a challenging environment for all of us and all the teams as it’s such a new experience,” he said at the team naming.
“Every player has been selected because they’ve performed well during the sevens series and in the training camps since then so have earned their position.
“Sevens is very competitive, so it’s important that we perform and if we perform to our potential, we’ll have a really good chance of succeeding in Rio.”
The New Zealand men’s team have been drawn in pool C with Britain, Kenya and Japan.
The women are in pool B and play France, Kenya and Spain.