The 3 major differences between picking Sonny Bill Williams and picking Jarryd Hayne for Rio

Firstly,

  • I like Ben Ryan and am happy for his success with Fiji
  • I’m a genuine 7s fan – and that means I love the way Fiji play the game and am happy for their success
  • I’ve got nothing against Jarryd Hayne
  • I’ve got nothing against Sonny Bill Williams

Although I do think that selecting either player comes with repercussions that have already been seen in New Zealand’s talent drain of late.

There’s several similarities between the 2 League converts. Both are extremely talented athletes with Pacific heritage. Both were League superstars who ventured away from the sport to try other things.

And of course both are pursuing Olympic gold.

But there are major differences between them when it comes to potential inclusion in their respective teams for Rio.

a. SBW has actually played rugby

Williams has played rugby for 6-7 seasons and that includes stints in 3 different countries.

That counts for something, especially familiarity with the rules – which are by no means an easy read.

Hayne has none of this behind him.

b. SBW has been inside the World Sevens Series environment for 6 months

Williams has been training, observing and playing 7s in a dedicated capacity since the beginning of the World Series in October last year. And the truth is he’s still getting to grips with the abbreviated format.

To think that Hayne could do it with just one event and a few weeks is extremely arrogant.

It is just not the three months to trim down it is the understanding the game. He would have never hit a ruck in his life and it becomes about decision making. If he gets there and he plays a role, brilliant but I think he has put himself in a hard place to be effective.
Wallaby great Matt Burke

Coach Ryan himself said as much back when Clive Woodward was spouting the ‘Lions of 7s’ would come from the home nations 15 a side teams:

As far as the way our leagues are set up in the UK and how the game is played and structured, it has taken our players a long time to get to the conditioning levels you want.

You never say never because there may be somebody that has played sevens in the past and is above everyone else’s fitness levels in the Premiership or international rugby and they really want to give it a go.

“But for the general population that are playing 15s at club or international level, it would be really hard. That is backed up by our fitness statistics, which are a level above first XVs.

“That is not because we are saying we are better athletes, but that is what our game is about. They have to be fitter and faster, and they are.

Is Jarryd Hayne fitter and faster than the current members of the Fijian 7s backline?

c. Selection likely to be on merit rather than ‘potential’

  • and thereby result in less backlash

SBW has very little competition for a place in his chosen country’s national team

In the early days of the ‘rugby’s back in the Olympics’ hysteria, players of every nation and every code were linked with a team. But the truth is that the 2 big realities of money and 7s fitness have put many off.

In New Zealand there are only four 15-a-side players vying for the Olympics – and only 3 of them play in the forwards: Akira Ione, Liam Messam and Sonny Bill Williams.

[I’m not counting Reiko Ione because he’s been with the All Black 7s for the last 18 months]

Had All Black number 8 Victor Vito come across and All Black wannabe Ardie Savea stayed, then there would be serious competition to Willaims’ inclusion. But they are not there and so Williams looks good for a place.

Outside of the vastly experienced trio of DJ Forbes, Scott Curry and Sam Dickson, Sir Gordon Tietjens has been a bit light on forward options.

  • Dylan Collier has been with the squad on and off for the last 2 seasons but while steady he hasn’t exactly set the world alight.
  • Murphy Taramai played in just 2 events but pulled the plug to focus on 15s after being left out last season.
  • Young Lewis Ormond who plays in the back line in 15s has become a handy sevens forward but like Collier, he’s gone OK rather than brilliant – and he lacks size for what will be fierce ruck competitions come Rio.
  • While Tim Mikkleson has played in the forwards, the trend in the last 2-3 years has been to opt for size to combat opponents at ruck time. Fiji are just too big. The Americans, Canadians, Argentinians and Kenyans have also given the Kiwis a hurry up in the tight recently.

Williams has been with the squad all season and if selected it will because he offers something genuinely different to the other forward line contenders.

Hayne would offer something different too but

  • Would it be that much more than the other wonderfully talented, pacey Fijian players?; and
  • It would definitely not be available continuously for full games nor the 10 minute each way final should it come to that.

Is that really enough when you consider the calibre of the guy Ben Ryan will leave at home?