The All Blacks Sevens team has been named for next weekend's HSBC Wellington Sevens tournament.
Four new caps have been included in the 14-player group.
The selectors have rewarded standout performances at the Bayleys National Sevens tournament last weekend with selection to a new-look national squad that contains a mix of youth and experience.
The squad is (* indicates new caps):
Scott Curry – Captain – Bay of Plenty
Dylan Collier – Southland
DJ Forbes – Counties Manukau
Iopu Iopu-Aso – Taranaki
Trael Joass* - Tasman
Rocky Khan – Auckland
Andrew Knewstubb* - Tasman
Vilimoni Koroi* - Otago
Tim Mikkelson - Waikato
Sione Molia – Counties Manukau
Tone Ng Shiu* - Tasman
Sherwin Stowers - Counties Manukau
Isaac Te Tamaki – Waikato
Regan Ware – Bay of Plenty
Interim All Blacks Sevens Head Coach Scott Waldrom said selections were based on performance at the recent National Sevens tournament.
“We said that the guys performing well would be the ones rewarded with selection. We are confident that this squad contains the best sevens rugby players in the country at the moment.
“This is a team based on form, and it shows that exciting talent coming through can put their hand up and be successful with national selection.
“It’s exciting to put Trael, Andrew, Vilimoni and Tone into the All Blacks Sevens environment in Wellington. Our focus when we go into camp next Monday is to bring the new guys up to speed with our structures and the team culture.
“There is also a lot of experience in the squad. DJ Forbes will play his 82nd World Series Tournament in Wellington, and a number of the other players have been part of successful campaigns over the years. It is good to have a mix of experience and new talent to keep us fresh.
“We are feeling confident heading into the Wellington tournament. There were big improvements in the team between the Dubai and Cape Town tournaments as the squad got to spend more time together. Since then we have had the Nationals and a four-day camp together in Rotorua, so we enter the build-up this week match-fit and gelling as a group.
“Wellington is always the highlight of the series for the boys. There is nothing like having a big crowd at Westpac Stadium cheering the team on. It’s also special to be able to play in front of our family and friends.
“We enter the tournament defending champions and we will be giving it our all to hold onto the Wellington trophy and make it four wins in a row.”
Selectors have announced a squad of 20 contracted players for 2017 for the Olympic Silver medal winning Black Ferns Sevens, made up of 18 fully-contracted players and two training contracts, leaving a further spot to filled later in the year.
The squad to contest the remainder of the 2016-2017 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series sees the addition of eight new contracted players into the Black Ferns Sevens environment.
The contracted squad is (* indicates a new contracted player):
• Sarah Goss (Captain) – Manawatu
• Shakira Baker – Waikato
• Michaela Blyde – Bay of Plenty
• Kelly Brazier – Bay of Plenty
• Gayle Broughton – Taranaki
• Rebekah Cordero-Tufuga – Manawatu*
• Lyric Faleafaga – Wellington (Training Contract)*
• Theresa Fitzpatrick – Auckland*
• Crystal Mayes – Manawatu (Training Contract)*
• Tyla Nathan-Wong – Auckland
• Cheyelle Robins-Reti – Waikato*
• Alena Saili – Otago*
• Terina Te Tamaki – Waikato
• Ruby Tui – Canterbury
• Stacey Waaka – Waikato
• Katarina Whata-Simpkins – Wellington
• Renee Wickliffe – Counties Manukau*
• Niall Williams – Auckland
• Tenika Willison – Waikato*
• Portia Woodman – Counties Manukau
Black Ferns Sevens Head Coach Allan Bunting said he was excited about the mix of talent in the team.
“There is a lot of potential in this team. The high level of performance at the National Sevens tournament on the weekend made selections very hard. The higher standard of coaching at Provincial Union level is really making our job difficult which is great, but we are lucky because they are delivering quality rugby players which will make coaching the squad easier.
“There is already a lot of experience in the squad, but it is youthful experience. Every player can go through to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 and most of them could still be going for gold at the two games after that.
“One player, Lyric Faleafaga, is in her last year of school and Alena Saili has just finished school last year. It’s great to see amazing talent coming through at such a young age which is exciting for the future of the team. Now that sevens is an Olympic sport more teenage athletes are seeing it as a path to competing on the international stage at the highest level.
“When selecting the squad we were looking for a mix of play-maker ability in the middle and power, speed and skill on the outside. I’m very happy that we have real potential in all these positions and that we have gained some size, hieght and have speed throughout the squad.
“Because we have two training contracts that means we have a space for potential other training contracts and also we have left one full contract that we can fill later. We will be looking to see who comes through the Go For Gold programme, which is aimed at attracting new athletes into sevens rugby.
“The focus for the next couple of weeks, heading into Sydney, will be continuing on from what we started in Dubai which is building our foundations and bringing the new members up to speed on what we have learnt.”
The full Black Ferns Sevens squad will go into camp in Wellington from Monday January 23. There will be media opportunities during the week with the squad. The squad will be attending the Wellington Sevens tournament on Saturday January 28 before a travelling team of 14 will leave for the Sydney tournament on Sunday January 29.
HSBC 2016-2017 World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series
Sydney, Australia: 3-4 February, 2017
Las Vegas, USA: 3-5 March 2017
Kitakyushu, Japan: 23-24 April, 2017
Langford, Canada: 27-28 April, 2017
Clermont-Ferrand, France: 24-25 June, 2017
College Sport Media is dedicated to telling the story of successful young sportspeople in New Zealand