All Blacks' new sevens weapon: The Rock?

New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams in action at the Singapore Rugby Sevens tournament on April 17. The rugby star has tried to rope in film star Dwayne Johnson for the injury-hit New Zealand sevens team.
New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams in action at the Singapore Rugby Sevens tournament on April 17. The rugby star has tried to rope in film star Dwayne Johnson for the injury-hit New Zealand sevens team.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

Rugby star Sonny Bill Williams is asking for help as the New Zealand rugby sevens team face a mounting injury crisis.

But while things have not exactly hit rock bottom for the All Blacks, Williams' choice of a new recruit is sure to raise eyebrows: Hollywood and wrestling icon Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

Last week, the 43-year-old Johnson tweeted that he played rugby as a kid in New Zealand, and said it was the "toughest sport I've ever done."

Johnson is of both Canadian and Samoan decent and briefly lived in Auckland with his mother's side of the family before returning back to the United States with his parents.

Williams responded on Monday with a cheeky invite and tweeted: "We got a few boys injured (at the moment), keen (for) a run?"

Johnson, who will star in the upcoming Baywatch film and has featured in other films like San Andreas and the Fast & Furious franchise, replied jokingly: "Just say the word and I'll come running. Don't know how far, but I'll come running."

Running is certainly an issue for the All Blacks Sevens squad, currently depleted by injuries to key personnel with two legs of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series remaining and the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro less than four months away.

Prior to the Singapore Sevens earlier this month, New Zealand were forced to call up replacements after captain Tim Mikkelson (ankle), Pita Ahki (shoulder), Sam Dickson (leg) and Lewis Ormond (foot) all withdrew with injuries.

The All Blacks, 12-time champions of the Sevens Series, had a disappointing campaign in Singapore. They finished sixth and lost to Samoa in the plate final.

It meant that they dropped to third in the overall standings as the series reaches its conclusion in Paris and London next month.

The Olympics in Brazil kicks off on Aug 5 and will mark the debut for the sport of rugby sevens.

The All Blacks, who have won back-to-back Rugby World Cups (the 15-a-side rugby union version), are among the favourites alongside Fiji and South Africa for the gold medal in Rio.

Jonathan Wong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 27, 2016, with the headline 'All Blacks' new sevens weapon: The Rock?'. Print Edition | Subscribe