Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Economy flight exacerbated SBW's knee injury

Sonny Bill Williams leg injury which ruled him out of the New Zealand sevens team for the Las Vegas world series tournament has been revealed as a knee problem. Photo / Getty Images.
Sonny Bill Williams leg injury which ruled him out of the New Zealand sevens team for the Las Vegas world series tournament has been revealed as a knee problem. Photo / Getty Images.

Sonny Bill Williams leg injury which ruled him out of the New Zealand sevens team for the Las Vegas world series tournament, plus next weekend's in Vancouver, has been revealed as a knee problem which was exacerbated by him being forced to fly economy class.

It is understood that team management have been left frustrated by the injury which forced All Black Williams back to Auckland without playing a match in Las Vegas.

Reporter Jack Tame told Radio Sport this morning that Williams, used to flying business class on long-haul flights with the All Blacks and Chiefs in Super Rugby, was unable to manage a knee which is prone to swelling.

"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," Tame said. "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'."

A disappointed Williams, who switched to sevens in the hope of going to the Rio Olympics, should be available for the Hong Kong tournament which starts on April 8. He posted a message on his twitter account yesterday which said: "Looking forward to getting home to my family. God willing I'm back out there come Hong Kong."

The Herald last week reported about how Williams and fellow All Black Liam Messam, back in sevens after a six-year absence, posted pictures of their economy boarding passes for the 12-hour Air New Zealand flight from Auckland to San Francisco on the way to Las Vegas.

It is World Rugby's policy to send all teams on economy class flights during the 10-round tournament.

International Players Association chief executive Rob Nichol said his organisation was talking to the global body about travel arrangements, including classes of flights, as part of their focus on player welfare.

After defeats by Kenya in their final pool match and South Africa in the quarter-final, New Zealand rallied to beat Argentina in extra-time of the plate semifinal and Japan 27-7 in the plate final.

The performances were several notches down from those in Wellington and Sydney, which New Zealand won with the help of the Ioane brothers, Akira and Rieko, Ardie Savea and Ben Lam, who have returned to Super Rugby.

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