Sonny Bill Williams in New Zealand squad for Wellington Sevens

--- Rugby World Cup winner Sonny Bill Williams has moved a step closer to playing in his first HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournament after being named in New Zealand’s squad of 22 for the Wellington Sevens at the end of this month.

Williams is joined by three other rookies in Counties Manukau pair, Josh Van Lieshout and Sione Molia, and Hawke’s Bay’s Billy Ropiha who all impressed at the Bayleys National Sevens in Rotorua last weekend.

Van Lieshout and Sione Molia helped Counties Manukau to a first Bayley National Sevens title since 1995 after a stunning 54-14 victory over North Harbour in Sunday’s final.

Veteran Kurt Baker returns as a contracted squad member for 2016. But injury prevented head coach Gordon Tietjens picking Scott Curry, Declan O’Donnell, DJ Forbes and Sherwin Stowers, while Liam Messam was not available due to rugby commitments in Japan.

Defending champions New Zealand, who are bidding for a hat-trick of home titles following wins in 2014 and 2015, will assemble in the country’s capital on Thursday, with Tietjens announcing his team four days later.

The New Zealand Sevens team for the Sydney Sevens, the fourth leg of the 2015-16 World Rugby Sevens Series, will be named on Monday 1 February