Joe Webber makes his return to the All Blacks Sevens squad after one year out because of reactive arthritis after being picked for the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.
Coach Clark Laidlaw has the luxury of a near full-strength squad for the biggest of the 10 HSBC World Sevens Series tournaments with captain Scott Curry and Dylan Collier also returning form injury.
“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,” said Laidlaw on the All Blacks official website.
“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.”
Webber, 25, was forced to take a break from rugby after being diagnosed with reactive arthritis, which causes swelling and pain in his joints and has no known cause. He return to training this year and has worked his way back into an All Blacks squad chasing their third title of the season.
New Zealand sit in second place in the standings after six tournaments on 106 points, seven behind leaders United States. They face Fiji, Australia and Kenya in their group matches during the April 5-7 Hong Kong Sevens.
“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,” said Laidlaw.
Earlier this month, Webber talked about returning to training for the first time, saying he was even unable to walk during his illness.
“I could hardly walk for the first three or four months and I’m slowly getting back on the bike with the boys for the next four or five months,” he said.
“I’ve been running around for maybe two months now. One of my friends had it and he also plays rugby and I asked him how it went and he said it usually takes a year
“The hardest thing was even the specialist didn’t know and he couldn’t give me a time frame [of when I would return], it was pretty much day by day and week by week.
“I felt good and think I’m getting better and the next week I’m sore again. I’m making sure I can get through a full wek of training. I’ve gotten through about three to four weeks. The key thing is looking at how I come out of the training and see if I can train back to back.
“And that’s been good so. It’s still sore in the morning but once I get going it’s been good.”
New Zealand All Blacks Sevens squad for Hong Kong Sevens
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