All Blacks Sevens squad for Hong Kong and Singapore confirmed
The All Blacks Sevens squad of 14 which will travel to the next two tournaments of the HSBC Sevens World Series in Hong Kong (8-10 April) and Singapore (16-17 April) has been named.
The squad features the return of Investec Super Rugby player Pita Ahki who last played for New Zealand at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014. He was also a member of the 2013 World Cup sevens winning side.
The playing team of 12 for Hong Kong will be named next week.
Pita Ahki (North Harbour)
Kurt Baker (Taranaki)
Dylan Collier (Waikato)
Sam Dickson (Canterbury)
DJ Forbes (Counties Manukau)
Gillies Kaka (Hawke’s Bay)
Liam Messam (Waikato)
Tim Mikkelson (Captain) (Waikato)
Sione Molia (Counties Manukau)
Lewis Ormond (Taranaki)
Teddy Stanaway (Bay of Plenty)
Isaac Te Tamaki (Waikato)
Regan Ware (Waikato)
Sonny Bill Williams (Counties Manukau)
Players not considered because of injury were Scott Curry, Billy Ropiha and Joe Webber. Investec Super Rugby players Akira Ioane, Rieko Ioane, Augustine Pulu and Ardie Savea will be available for selection for the final two tournaments of the World Series in Paris and London. Ben Lam has been ruled out with injury.
Coach Gordon Tietjens said it was a tough selection after yesterday’s trial.
“The key this year is getting the balance right so we give all the players the opportunity in a really important year to stake their claim to be in contention for the Olympics by playing in a World Series tournament. We want to go to Hong Kong and perform really well.”
Wider training group player Sione Molia wins selection after impressing in Vancouver while Ahki returns to the side from the Hurricanes.
“We’ve lost Joe Webber and Ben Lam to injury so Pita gives us that experience. Defensively he’s very strong and has a very good understanding of the game which is hugely important.”
Sonny Bill Williams and Isaac Te Tamaki return from injury which ruled them out of the recent tournaments in Las Vegas and Vancouver, while Liam Messam continues his return to sevens.
“Isaac is probably our fastest player. He has that x factor and can break out and do things out of nothing so he’s a real threat,” said Tietjens.
“Sonny Bill and Liam are back in the reckoning. Liam had a very good final in Vancouver and will want to back that up in Hong Kong. Sonny is coming off the back of two very good tournaments in Sydney and Wellington and wants to get back into it. He’s been training well and will be looking forward to Hong Kong.
“Sonny and Liam love the sevens culture and are both very hard workers. They mix in really well and want to stake their claims to be in the team to go to Rio.”
The All Blacks Sevens are currently third in the series after winning the recent Canada Sevens in Vancouver, two points behind leader Fiji.
“All teams can sense we’re not far away from Rio. They’ll still trialling different players and that’s what we’ve done here. We all want to improve at every tournament so these next two tournaments are very important, looking out to Paris and London after that.”
The team has been drawn in Pool A and will play Samoa, France and Kenya with pool games spread over two days. First up is France on Friday night.
“There are no easy games,” said Tietjens. “It’s going to be tough so we have to get up for them. We’re only looking at one game at a time. The format is similar to what we will strike at Rio so we have to use to our advantage.”
Hong Kong match schedule
(Hong Kong is four hours behind NZT when daylight savings ends on 3 April)
Friday 8 April
1944 v France
Saturday 9 April
1140 v Kenya
1540 v Samoa
Sunday 10 April
Watch live on SKY Sport Pop-up Channel 055
Day 1, Friday 8 April, from 9.00pm
Day 2, Saturday 9 April, from 2.15pm
Day 3, Sunday 10 April, from 12.30pm
Day 1, Saturday 16 April, from 12.30pm
Day 2, Sunday 17 April, from 1.00pm