$2m set aside to tempt All Blacks to Olympics
August 6, 2014
Liam Messam is keen to play in the 2016 Olympics © Getty Images
Reports in the New Zealand Herald says close to NZ$2m (£1m) will be set aside by the New Zealand Rugby Union to help cover the salaries and compensation for any All Blacks stars who want to play in the short form of the game come 2016. According to the newspaper, some players will be told to miss the entire Super Rugby campaign in preparation while others will be fast-tracked nearer the tournament.
Players such as Sonny Bill Williams, Liam Messam and Ben Smith have been mentioned as Kiwis who may be interested in swapping 15s for Sevens on a temporary basis and Messam has confirmed his interest.
''My major goal is to get to the Olympics and I'll be 32 by then," Messam said. "So I know I need to do all the recovery work and I need to eat what I need to to be able to train every day.''
Conrad Smith, 32, also expressed his interest, saying: "There's obviously certain forwards that don't give it much thought, but for the last year or so certainly some of the backs and some of the guys that have been involved before talk about how they'd love to be involved and why not?"
"It's a pretty unique opportunity to get an Olympic gold. That would be something most guys would jump at."
Ben Smith, however, is unsure whether he will dedicate a section of his career to Sevens having already run out in the 2010 Commonwealth Games. ''I'm not too sure. It's two years away. I'm just worrying about the [Rugby] Championship coming up. A lot of people will make decisions over the next few years. I really enjoyed my time with the sevens and I'm sure a lot of people will want to be part of it.''
Winning the 2016 Olympics was one of the NZRU's goals when they set out their four-year strategic plan in 2012. Alongside winning next year's World Cup, NZRU CEO Steve Tew hopes they will realise their aspirations in Rio de Janeiro come 2016.
"We've said we will pick the best team possible to go win a gold medal in Rio, but the debate is what makes that team up?" Tew told Radio Sport. "Is it a lot of players who have been only involved in sevens for a long period of time? Or is it a mix of players who have played both versions of the game?
"In the end it is going to come down to how many and for how long? My sense is we will have some fifteens players who could make a very valuable contribution and transition in a relatively short period of time and others who would need longer."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd