Rio gold would beat World Cup wins for SBW

2:44 pm on 5 August 2016

Rio 2016 Olympics - A gold medal in the inaugural Olympic rugby sevens tournament would surpass the achievement of winning the World Cup twice with the all-conquering All Blacks for Sonny Bill Williams.

Niall Williams with her older brother Sonny Bill at the New Zealand Sevens Olympics announcement.

Sonny Bill Williams and his sister Niall. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The highest profile player at the tournament, former heavyweight boxing champion and rugby league international, Williams was part of the New Zealand teams that won the 2011 and 2015 World Cups.

''It would have to surpass it, I think,'' he told a news conference in Rio on Wednesday.

''As an athlete there is no higher level than the Olympics. I am fortunate to learn off these boys in the team and train my butt off. We want to be successful.''

The 31-year-old is one of the few top players from the 15-man game to have managed the transition to the lung-busting shorter format.

''It has been a tough old year but now it is the big stage, the big one,'' he said.

''The key was putting myself in the sevens environment in the whole year and learning from these boys. The fitness levels are up where they should be and the knowledge is too.''

New Zealand have been pooled with Japan, Kenya and Britain in the first round of the men's tournament, which begins next Tuesday.

Coach Gordon Tietjens has been forced to make a late injury replacement in his squad after back Teddy Stanaway fractured his hand last week.

''It was devastating for him,'' Tietjens said of Stanaway, who will be replaced by Lewis Ormond.

''We gave it a bit of time. We tested him before we flew here and he didn't really pass the test. It is really unfortunate because he worked so hard to make the side.''

Tietjens is arguably the sport's greatest sevens coach, having led New Zealand to 10 World Series and four Commonwealth titles. He is in no doubt that the Olympics is ''special''.

With Fiji having won the last two World Series titles, though, he is in the unusual position of overseeing a side who are not the pre-tournament favourites.

''It is great to come in as an underdog,'' Tietjens added.

''Unfortunately the game of sevens is ruthless. One defining moment can decide a result. The All Black brand is particularly powerful. With it comes expectation. That applies to the sevens team."