CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND
World Cup winner Julian Savea said Tuesday he was "heartbroken" over the New Zealand mosque shootings as All Blacks team-mate Sonny Bill Williams took a week off Super Rugby to support people affected by the tragedy.
Williams, a devout Muslim, said his "heart is heavy" over Friday's attack, which left 50 people dead, as he announced a trip to Christchurch to "show love" and give donations.
Hulking wing Savea has bagged 46 tries in 51 Test starts, but has struggled this season after moving to Toulon. However, he put his personal woes aside to pledge support to the Muslim community.
"I've been privileged enough to learn about Islam through my wife's family, especially her grandparents," the 28-year-old tweeted from France.
"They've been to Mecca twice, they pray five times a day, they encouraged me to fast during Ramadan and taught me what it means to be a Muslim," Savea added.
"And I will make sure my children learn about Islam too because it's a beautiful religion, and Muslims are the kindest people I have met.
"I am still so heartbroken over Friday's events and I want the Muslim community to know that I stand with you all."
All Blacks great Williams, who tweeted a video of himself in tears as news of the attack broke, has received the backing of his club Auckland Blues to travel south to Christchurch.
"Thank you everyone for your kind hearts," Williams tweeted.
"We will be in Christchurch later in the week to show love and give donations to the Christchurch Masjids, for the people affected in this tragedy. My heart is heavy, please don't stop showing your support."
All Blacks and Wellington Hurricanes fly-half Beauden Barrett said he was surprised Friday's Super Rugby 23-23 draw against the Waikato Chiefs had not been cancelled, kicking off just hours after the Christchurch carnage.
"It's pretty tough to have to play a game after that," Barrett told stuff.co.nz after training on Tuesday.
Hurricanes fullback Chase Tiatia also said he thought the game would be postponed, as was Saturday's match between the Highlanders and the Christchurch-based Crusaders.
"It's hard to prep for a rugby game when that stuff is going on in New Zealand. It's quite scary," Tiatia said.
Players from both sides formed a circle in the centre of the pitch and linked arms as they observed a minute's silence before the match.