NFL star’s Olympic hopes boosted after being named in United States squad for Hong Kong Sevens

 

American football player Nate Ebner’s chances of competing at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games have been given a boost as he has been named in the United States’ squad for this weekend’s Hong Kong Sevens event.

The 27-year-old, who won the Super Bowl with the New England Patriots in 2014, was granted a leave of absence by the National Football League (NFL) franchise to pursue his dream of competing at the Games last month.

Ebner has already represented the US at sevens, becoming their youngest ever player at 17.

He also played 15-a-side rugby union for the country’s under-19 and under-20 teams and was an All-American rugby player at Ohio State University.

Ebner is not the only household name who is set to feature at the Hong Kong Sevens, the seventh stop on the World Rugby Sevens Series calendar which begins tomorrow and concludes on Sunday (April 10), as World Cup winners Sonny Bill Williams and Liam Messam have been selected for New Zealand.

Williams will be making his return to the sevens side as he missed the last two rounds, in Vancouver and Las Vegas.

He reportedly aggravated a knee injury after he had to fly economy class rather than business from Auckland to San Francisco on the way to the event in the American city.

“I know I’m still a rookie, but [seven] has lit a fire inside of me that I know I won’t be able to put out anytime soon,” Williams, one of only 20 dual World Cup winners, told CNN.

“The first game I started I was was just chasing everything and I blew myself out.

“The amount of running in sevens compared to 15s is probably about three times as much, maybe four times – there’s a big emphasis on recovery.

“Obviously to make that squad at the end of the year is not going to be an easy feat – there are some talented, talented players.

“I’ve just got to keep training hard and keep learning.”

Fiji go into the tournament, considered one of the standout events on the calendar, as the current Series leaders on 106 points and will be hoping to defend their Hong Kong Sevens crown to extend their advantage at the summit of the leaderboard.

The 2015 Series winners have been drawn in Pool D along with Canada, Wales and South Korea.

Second-placed South Africa will face Scotland, England and Russia in Pool B, while New Zealand will play Samoa, France and Kenya in Pool A.

Pool C features Australia, the United States, Argentina and Portugal.

 

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