New England Patriots safety Nate Ebner will be part of the U.S. rugby team at the top international level, less than a month after announcing his return to the sport with a goal of making the Rio Olympic team.
Ebner is replacing Carlin Isles, who is dealing with a nagging injury, on the U.S. roster for the Hong Kong leg of the World Rugby Sevens Series this weekend.
The U.S. typically puts its best players on the 12-man roster for World Series events, providing a look into the top hopefuls for the 12-man Olympic team that will be named later this year.
It hasn’t been announced whether Ebner or Isles will be on the U.S. team for the following World Series leg in Singapore from April 16-17.
The U.S. rugby sevens team has four World Series stops in April and May ahead of the Rio Olympics. It is ranked fifth in the series standings through six legs.
Ebner, 27, has been mostly a special-teams player for the Patriots since being drafted in the sixth round in 2012.
He was a rugby standout a decade ago for U.S. junior teams at World Championships and at Ohio State, before he walked onto the Buckeyes football team as a junior.