HONG KONG SEVENS
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Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2016

Sonny Bill Williams could miss Hong Kong Sevens – and all because he flew economy

Multi-code star struggling with a knee injury, while other big names may miss out too

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 March, 2016, 11:04am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 March, 2016, 4:20pm

Hong Kong rugby fans hoping to see multi-code star Sonny Bill Williams in action at the Sevens could be disappointed – apparently because World Rugby flew their players economy class to the Las Vegas Sevens last weekend.

Williams, who has starred for New Zealand in rugby union and league, is targeting sevens gold at the Olympics this summer, but has suffered a flare-up of a long-standing knee condition.

And New Zealand media has blamed it on the decision to send their team on the cheap to the US.

William – 194cm tall, 108kg – would be used to flying business class with the All Blacks and Super Rugby teams.

“Because Sonny was in economy class he couldn’t wear a compression brace on his knee that would usually make it a whole lot tighter,” reporter Jack Tame told New Zealand’s Radio Sport.

“I think the team management were pretty frustrated about that, that he couldn’t have that brace on. He got to Vegas and was training okay but then his knee started swelling up again, the liquid came back.

“My understanding is that they were expecting Sonny to be able to fly business class. The team management had talked to Air New Zealand and arranged something ... but then they weren’t able to.

“They turned up at the airport and he was told ‘sorry buddy, you’re down in 56J or whatever, down in between the bogs and the babies’.”

Williams made a swift return back to Auckland, and tweeted: “God willing I’m back out there come

Hong Kong.”

The New Zealand Herald reported that World Rugby’s policy is to fly players economy class and that the players’ association is in talks with them about it.

Vern Reid, CEO of Hong Kong Rugby, said he was confident the Hong Kong Sevens could shrug off the potential absence of one of the sport’s biggest stars

“This is an exciting year for Sevens, with the Olympics looming on the horizon and a number of 15s players trying their hand on the World Series,” he said in an emailed statement.

“Inevitably availability and injury will always effect which players we’ll be watching in action at the sold-out Hong Kong Stadium, but we can be certain that every one of the 336 players in the 28 teams will be out to make their mark, and I’m sure that by the end of Sunday Hong Kong will have uncovered more exciting new stars, to follow in the footsteps of legends like Jonah Lomu, Christian Cullen and Waisale Serevi.”

Other Rugby World Cup stars who’ve been in action on the Sevens series this season include Bryan Habana, Juan de Jongh and Francois Hougaard (South Africa); Quade Cooper (Australia) and Liam Messam (NZ).

Meanwhile, Hong Kong fans may miss out on seeing other players who have starred for the New Zealand Sevens team this season.

New Zealand won back-to-back tournaments in Wellington and Sydney on the Sevens Series, with the Ioane brothers Rieko and Akira, plus Ardie Savea and Ben Lam all starring. But they have been called back to Super Rugby by their clubs and may not return to sevens before the last couple of tournaments in Paris and London.

New Zealand were far from their best at the Las Vegas Sevens last weekend, dumped out in the Cup quarter-finals.

This weekend is the Vancouver Sevens, then the series takes a break before the Hong Kong Sevens on April 8-10.

The draw for the Hong Kong Sevens is on Monday.