Just over a year ago, everything was going right for Joe Webber.

The Tokoroa-born player was finding his feet in a strong All Blacks Sevens team and with the Commonwealth Games and World Cup on the horizon there was plenty to look forward to.

That is until he was struck down by a mysterious injury, which kept him off the field for more than a year.

"We were training in Aussie for the Commonwealth Games when all of a sudden my toe and heel swelled up real bad. They weren't sure what it was from until I had some blood tests and found it was reactive arthritis," Webber says.


"I've got a gene from my dad's side and if you have that gene you have a really high chance of getting reactive arthritis if you get a bad virus or sick. I got really sick in Las Vegas about four weeks before that, so my immune system overreacted.

"It was sore as, I couldn't walk. When I got home my knee started swelling up as well and for three or four months I could hardly walk."

The last tournaments he played were Canada and Las Vegas last year, after which he could only watch as his teammates claimed gold at the Commonwealth Games and the Sevens World Cup.

Unsure how long the injury would keep him out, Webber was forced to work hard on his rehab and continually readjust his goals.

First a season playing in Japan came and went, as did the Mitre 10 Cup season.

Now, finally, he has been named in the All Blacks Sevens squad to play in Hong Kong and Singapore.

"It made it worse missing the Commonwealth Games and World Cup, it was pretty disappointing but I'm still grateful for a lot of things. There were things coming up that I was positive I'd be right for but it didn't happen. It ended up being a long road and it was hard at times, but there's nothing you can do about it, you just have to carry on."

He says he is "pumped" to be joining the team for the coming tournaments. After so long out he feels he has to prove himself to his teammates again.


"I'm pretty nervous too, but I can't wait to be back on the field with the boys. I want to get through the two tournaments, hopefully uninjured, and try to do the basics well. Get out there, play hard for the boys and earn a bit of trust back - it's been awhile since I've played."

Webber joins Scott Curry and Dylan Collier as the three players returning from injury in the squad, which was named yesterday.

Coach Clark Laidlaw says Webber's return is exciting for the entire team.

"Joe is one of the best attacking players in the game of sevens. He has worked so hard over the past year and kept such a positive attitude - we are all looking forward to seeing him out on the field again."

Joe Webber runs the ball against England during the 2018 Canada Sevens. Photo / Getty Images
Joe Webber runs the ball against England during the 2018 Canada Sevens. Photo / Getty Images

Laidlaw says the ability to pick from an "almost fully fit squad" sees a strong team selected for Hong Kong, the seventh tournament on the HSBC World Series.

"We have really tested our depth in the forward pack in recent tournaments and all the players have really stepped up. It is good to have Scott and Dylan back going into Hong Kong, their experience will be crucial in such a big event."

The All Blacks Sevens sit second on the World Series behind the US and know a strong result in Hong Kong will go a long way towards securing an Olympic berth in 2020.

A tough pool assignment sees the All Blacks come up against Fiji, Australia and Kenya in the first two days of competition.

"It doesn't get much harder than that. We start on Friday against Australia and that is where our focus is at the moment, we need to be ready to fire straight away," Laidlaw says.

Following the Hong Kong tournament the team will travel to Singapore for the Singapore Sevens the following weekend.

All Blacks Sevens squad for Hong Kong and Singapore
Kurt Baker (Manawatu)
Dylan Collier (Waikato)
Scott Curry (Bay of Plenty)
Sam Dickson (Canterbury)
Andrew Knewstubb (Horowhenua-Kapiti)
Tim Mikkelson (Waikato)
Sione Molia (Counties Manukau)
Jona Nareki (Otago)
Tone Ng Shiu (Tasman)
Joe Ravouvou (Auckland)
Akuila Rokolisoa (Counties Manukau)
Regan Ware (Taranaki)
Joe Webber (Bay of Plenty)