A new venue, an expanded women’s competition, and plenty at stake for players – the stage is set for the 2014 Bayleys National Sevens which kicks-off in just 24 days.
Rotorua International Stadium will host the two day event for the first time on 11, 12 January with 26 provincial teams vying for national honours.
“It’s great to be bringing the National Sevens to Rotorua during the holiday period as it’s an exciting opportunity to grow the game on the back of the fine foundation provided by Queenstown in the past ten years,” said New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew.
Sixteen men’s teams will again compete and the women’s competition has been expanded with 10 teams taking part, up from six last year.
Hawke’s Bay, Auckland and Canterbury are seeded top of the men’s competition after winning regional qualifying tournaments and head their respective pools. Northland, runner up to Auckland in the northern region qualifying tournament last weekend, heads the other men’s pool. On the women’s side of the draw, current national champions, Manawatu, along with northern region winners, Auckland, head each of the two women’s pools.
For the full draw and pools please click-> 2014_Bayleys_National_Sevens_Draw.
“We aim to win two golds at the Rio Olympics so maintaining a strong domestic competition is really important in terms of building the depth we need to compete successfully in 2016,” said Tew.
“This tournament is growing in stature. It’s a proven pathway to higher honours and with both national teams coaches watching from the sidelines, there is a lot at stake for players.
“We’re also really pleased to see the women’s competition expanding which shows how popular this part of the game is getting and how much effort Provincial Unions are putting into women’s sevens.”
New Zealand Women’s Sevens Coach Sean Horan will use the tournament to finalise his squad of 17 contracted players.
“This tournament will be the last big push for a lot of players to earn a spot in the first ever New Zealand Women’s Sevens contracted squad, so I’ve been urging those players in contention to work hard before we announce the squad after the tournament.
“Judging from the regional tournaments to date, I’m expecting the women’s teams to be extremely competitive at the Nationals. The standard of women’s sevens rugby is remarkable right now and there is definitely some great talent out there.”
All Blacks Sevens Coach Gordon Tietjens will be looking to select four players for the All Blacks Sevens wider training group as well as keeping his eye out for rising stars.
“The real objective of going to this tournament is to look for promising players who are coming through and also to pick players who are ready to make that international step right now.
“I have spotted a number of players over the years who have played really well at the Nationals and if you look at Christian Cullen and Jonah Lomu that’s where they launched their international careers.”
Some All Blacks Sevens players will be turning out as they prepare for the next two legs of the HSBC Sevens World Series in Las Vegas and Wellington.
“It’s important for some of them to get a lot of game time and also help other teams with the experience they have.”
The tournament kicks off on 11 January at 12.05pm and will be broadcast live on SKY Sport 2 and the Rugby Channel on both days.
“We hope lots of holiday makers take advantage of the opportunity to see many of our best sevens players in action, said Tew. “Children’s tickets are priced at $5 and adults at $15 for a day pass, so this is great value holiday entertainment.”
Tickets are available at www.ticketmaster.co.nz.