Hong Kong - All Blacks star Sonny Bill
Williams is "fighting fit" after recovering from a knee injury as he
presses his Olympic bid at this week's Hong Kong sevens, his captain said on
The code-hopping Rugby World Cup-winner,
who is now trying to bag Olympic gold, missed the last two world sevens series
tournaments but appeared untroubled in training on Tuesday.
"He's fighting fit. He was
disappointed to miss the last ones through a bit of injury and he's ready to
go," captain Tim Mikkelson told reporters in Hong Kong.
Williams suffered a swollen knee before the
Las Vegas sevens, with unconfirmed reports in New Zealand saying the problem
was exacerbated by an economy-class long-haul flight to the United States.
Coach Gordon Tietjens was non-committal
about the economy-class theory but he said Williams, 30, had been training hard
before the problem flared.
"I really can't answer that," he
said. "He'd just basically come off a pretty hard training week and it
flared up so that's really what it was."
Williams, who has also enjoyed a
distinguished rugby league career and has had success as a heavyweight boxer,
showed no problems as he played a practice game and sprinted the length of the
pitch in training.
"Sonny Bill Williams is fine. He loves
the sport. He's a great athlete, he commits himself really well, he's got such
a professional work ethic," Tietjens said.
"He's a great example for all the
other younger players that are coming into the sevens environment and that's
what's really special about him: he just sets high standards. It's great for
Despite his pedigree, Tietjens said even a
player of Williams' standing needed tournaments and intense conditioning work
to successfully switch to fast-moving, hard-running sevens.
"You just cannot make the transition
in a short space of time," he said. "You've got to play world series
"The game's evolved since the last
time a lot of them would have played it. Even Sonny Bill Williams said the
other day, this game's a different beast altogether. The conditioning levels
New Zealand, who won last month's inaugural
Vancouver sevens, are hoping for another strong showing in Hong Kong, the
highlight of the world series and regarded a dress rehearsal for the Olympic
sevens in August.
After Hong Kong, the world series heads to
Singapore, Paris and London before rugby makes its return to the Olympic Games
in Rio after a 92-year absence.
"I've got players that are hungry to
be an Olympian," Tietjens said.
"They all want to go to Rio, and every
time they go out and they play in that black jersey, it's a performance they
want to remember as about what puts them in that team to go to Rio.
"So that's why it's (Hong Kong) really
important. We can't afford not to play well and the players can't afford not to