All Blacks Sevens contracts strengthen squad
The New Zealand Rugby Union has contracted 17 players to play for the All Blacks Sevens over the next year.
For the first time, the group includes a nucleus of eight players who have committed to being Sevens specialists for coach, Sir Gordon Tietjens. They are Tomasi Cama, Scott Curry, Sam Dickson, DJ Forbes, Gillies Kaka, Tim Mikkelson, David Raikuna and Lote Raikabula.
Outside that core group there are some notable inclusions, Declan O’Donnell and Joe Webber now both available to Tietjens having last played regularly and excelled in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
Former New Zealand Under 20 player and Southland back Marty McKenzie steps freshly into the set-up, while Wellington speedster Ambrose Curtis is retained after impressing on debut at the Gold Coast Sevens last month.
“This is a very strong squad with a core group of players who have performed consistently well for the team, particularly in the past season, together with some exciting young talent who will help build depth as we move towards the Olympics in 2016," said Tietjens.
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“The really good news is that we now have eight specialist sevens players. This is all part of our plan to build a group of players who can devote themselves to sevens and so play their part in helping us win gold at Rio in 2016.”
Four additional players will be contracted by early next year as part of the All Blacks Sevens Wider Training Group.
The All Blacks Sevens have won their last three tournaments - in London, the World Cup in Moscow and Australia - and next travel to the Emirates Dubai Rugby Sevens, round two of the HSBC Sevens World Series, to be played on 29-30 November. There they face pool matches against Kenya, France and Portugal.
The currently lead the Series on 22 points, from second-placed Australia (19), third-placed England (17), South Africa (15) and Fiji (13).
All Blacks Sevens contracted squad: Tomasi Cama* (Manawatu), Scott Curry* (tba), Ambrose Curtis (Wellington), Sam Dickson* (Canterbury), DJ Forbes* (Counties Manukau), Bryce Heem (Tasman), Ben Lam (Auckland), Mark Jackman (Canterbury), Gillies Kaka* (Hawke’s Bay), Marty McKenzie (Southland), Tim Mikkelson* (Waikato), Waisake Naholo (Taranaki), Declan O’Donnell (Waikato), David Raikuna*, (North Harbour), Lote Raikabula* (Wellington), Sherwin Stowers (Counties Manukau), Joe Webber (Waikato)
* specialist sevens players