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All Blacks Sevens name first World Sevens Series squad in more than two years

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

The All Blacks Sevens have named their squad for their first appearance at a World Sevens Series event in more than two years.

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The reigning Olympic silver medallists will return to the World Sevens Series for the first time since their triumph at the Vancouver Sevens in March 2020 when they compete at next weekend’s Singapore Sevens.

Their appearance at National Stadium comes after 25 months of absence from the global sevens circuit due to border closures and travel restrictions brought on by the outbreak of Covid-19.

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However, after the New Zealand Government’s decision to relax its own border restrictions last month, the All Blacks Sevens will return to regular international action ahead of this year’s Commonwealth Games and Sevens World Cup.

As such, head coach Clark Laidlaw has named a squad featuring five debutants to travel to Singapore this weekend ahead of the tournament.

Those debutants include Bay of Plenty halfback Leroy Carter, North Harbour flyer Moses Leo, teenager Caleb Tangitau, Auckland prospect Kitiona Vai, and Brady Rush, the son of All Blacks Sevens legend Eric Rush.

“They have been with us a couple of years, so they really deserve this opportunity and are ready for it,” Laidlaw said of Leo, Vai and Rush, all of whom have been part of the national set-up previously but are yet to debut on the World Sevens Series.

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By comparison, Tangitau – who is only 19-years-old – and Carter, who was called into the Hurricanes as an injury replacement player earlier this year, have been fast-tracked into the side.

“Caleb has only been with us a couple of months, but he has done really well these last couple of weeks and has genuine pace,” Laidlaw said.

“Leroy is a professional, he’s diligent with his work and can play multiple positions, we’re looking forward to seeing how he goes.”

The squad also features seven players – Sam Dickson, Dylan Collier, Andrew Knewstubb, Tone Ng Shiu, Akuila Rokolisoa, Regan Ware and Joe Webber – who finished second at last year’s Tokyo Olympics.

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Dickson will assume the captaincy role in the absence of Tim Mikkelson and Scott Curry, both of whom are unavailable for the tournament.

The other member of the All Blacks Sevens squad is Trael Joass, a Sevens World Cup and Commonwealth Games champion with New Zealand four years ago who returns to the side after overcoming a serious knee injury.

“Resilience is the right word for Trael. It’s been a long haul since he did his ACL, he was just getting back to full fitness when Covid came around. He deserves this opportunity because he’s worked extremely hard and he’s in good condition,” Laidlaw said.

The All Blacks Sevens will compete at the Singapore Sevens next Saturday and Sunday before travelling to Canada the following week to compete at the Vancouver Sevens.

All Blacks Sevens squad for Singapore Sevens: Leroy Carter*, Dylan Collier, Sam Dickson (c), Trael Joass, Andrew Knewstubb, Moses Leo*, Tone Ng Shiu, Akuila Rokolisoa, Brady Rush*, Caleb Tangitau, Kitiona Vai, Regan Ware, Joe Webber.

* – denotes new cap

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Turlough 1 hours ago
Jean de Villiers' three word response to 'best in the world' debate

This ‘raging’ debate is only happenning in media circles and has never been a topic in Ireland (although SA media are interested). It makes the media companies money I guess. SA are RWC champions and #1 ranked team although Ireland are back within a point there. The facts point to SA. For a lot of 2021 France beat ALL their rivals and Ireland similar in 2022-2023. It is not wrong to say that on such form either can be deemed to be the current best team if they have beaten all their rivals and ranked #1. The ‘have to have won a world cup’ stipulation is nonsense. The world cup draw and scheduling has been tailored to the traditional big teams since the start. The scheduling also which sees the big teams sheltered from playing a hard pool match the week before has also been a constant. It is extraordinary that for example France have made so many finals. Ireland who were realistically only contenders in 2023 were in a Pool with two other top 5 teams and had to play one of them 7 days before a quarter final against France or New Zealand. Always going to be a coin toss. Scotland’s situation was worse. New Zealand had great chances in 1995, 1999, 2007 but they could not win a tight RWC match. The first tight match they ever won was versus France in the 2011 final, literally they lost every other tight match before that. Some of those NZ teams around that era were #1 surely?

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