Rugby: World Cup hero Sonny Bill Williams in squad for April 7s event in Singapore

All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams is eyeing the sevens game as a platform to try to achieve Olympic greatness.
All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams is eyeing the sevens game as a platform to try to achieve Olympic greatness.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Fresh from his on- and off-field heroics at the Rugby World Cup, New Zealand star Sonny Bill Williams is set to light up the HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens in April.

The New Zealand Rugby Union confirmed to The Straits Times yesterday that the 30-year-old centre is in the All Blacks squad for the 2015-16 World Rugby Sevens Series starting next month.

Fellow World Cup winner Liam Messam is also included on the initial 16-man list.

Besides the lure of competing at the Rio Olympics, the big names will also be keen to help the Kiwis regain the series' top spot, which they held from 2011 to 2014 until a third-place finish this year.

The National Stadium in Kallang will host one of the 10 legs in the popular global tournament, on April 16 and 17.

As Williams has never played sevens at the international level, New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens said he will be involved in six legs - including Singapore, if he is fit and in form - to prove he is worthy of a ticket to Rio.

"To be good at this game, you've got to be training it and playing it," Tietjens told the Australian Associated Press. "Some of these players haven't played sevens for a long, long time but they've certainly got the skill sets to do so."

Williams became the darling of the rugby world after giving his World Cup winners' medal to young fan Charlie Line.

The latter was tackled by a security guard at Twickenham after New Zealand's 34-17 win over Australia in the final on Saturday.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1efwKglwZU

A day later, the former professional boxer earned a standing ovation at the World Rugby awards, where he was given a replacement medal.

On his gesture, a video of which has gone viral, Williams said: "It was pretty sad. He's just a young fella caught up in the moment.

"If that was a younger brother or cousin, I would have given the security guard a hiding."

Singapore Rugby Union president Low Teo Ping said Williams' likely participation at the Singapore Sevens was "tremendous news", describing him as a "superstar who not only plays good rugby but has a heart".

Williams was the first Muslim to play for the All Blacks, converting to Islam in 2008 while playing in France for Toulon.

Prior to this, he had been involved in several alcohol-related incidents, including a drink-driving conviction, being caught in a compromising position with Australian model Candice Falzon and receiving a fine for urinating in public.

On his off-field indiscretions, Williams had said: "Those things have made me who I am today, I wouldn't change that."

And what a player he is today.

Since making the switch from rugby league in 2008, he has blossomed into one of the game's most dynamic playmakers, able to both shrug off tackles and dish out pin-point passes.

The decision to enter the sevens game ahead of its Olympic bow was an easy one to make.

Williams explained: "Going back in time, the best sportsmen ever have been Olympians - (Usain) Bolt, (Muhammad) Ali.

"It's just an awesome opportunity to try and achieve that."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 03, 2015, with the headline 'World Cup hero Williams in squad for 7s event in S'pore'. Print Edition | Subscribe