WELLINGTON (Reuters) – All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams is to have knee surgery that could keep him out of action for six weeks and raise question marks over his chances of making a third successive Rugby World Cup.
The 33-year-old, a member of the World Cup winning squads in 2011 and 2015, suffered the injury while playing for the Auckland Blues against the Stormers on March 30 and has been scheduled for arthroscopic surgery on Friday.
“It’s a big blow,” Blues coach Leon MacDonald told reporters on Thursday. “I feel sorry for him and it’s unfortunate for him. He obviously landed on it awkwardly and did some damage there.”
Williams could be in a position to return towards the end of the Super Rugby season for the resurgent Blues, who are seeking a fifth successive win when they face the Waikato Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday
Whether All Blacks coach Steve Hansen will risk taking him to the global showpiece in Japan later this year is another matter.
Williams tore his Achilles tendon while playing rugby sevens at the 2016 Rio Olympics and has since suffered foot, shoulder, knee, hand and wrist injuries that have restricted his appearances for both the Blues and the All Blacks.
He played just five tests last year and is in a tight tussle for the World Cup squad with Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, Anton Lienert-Brown and Ngani Laumape also candidates for what are likely to be just four midfield positions.
MacDonald, however, said the former rugby league international was keen to make the World Cup squad and would be more than capable of getting back into shape in time for Hansen to select him for the Sept. 20-Nov. 2 tournament.
“Whatever he decides to do and puts his mind to, he sort of makes happen,” added MacDonald. “If he still wants to keep playing later on he’s the sort of guy you would never write off.
“He’s a pretty determined guy and this year he really wants to make the World Cup squad and be a part of that.
“So he’s pretty driven to make sure he recovers well from this and gets back on the field.”
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)