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Black Ferns captain Hirini can't wait for the opportunity to play in Hong Kong

By Adam Julian
Players of New Zealand perform a haka after the final game of the World Rugby Seven Series 2023 BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on March 5, 2023. (Photo by Mert Alper Dervis/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

For the first time in 22 years, New Zealand Rugby will send an official women’s team to the Hong Kong Sevens when the Black Ferns Sevens compete in the sixth round of the HSBC World Sevens Series.

The last time New Zealand’s women played at the iconic Hong Kong Stadium was in 2001.

With World Rugby Hall of Fame inductee Anna Richards and pioneering legends Annaleah Rush and Dianne Kahura to the fore, New Zealand won the tournament without conceding a point.

Black Ferns Sevens captain Sarah Hirini can’t wait for the opportunity to add Hong Kong to her 56-tournament list.

“I have always wanted to play at the Hong Kong Sevens and to now have this opportunity is going to be amazing,” Hirini said.

“Hong Kong is the home of sevens and has always been the biggest event of the men’s sevens calendar.

“I feel the greatest games have been played in Hong Kong and a memory that stands out for me would be the Jonah Lomu try that went 104 metres from the in goal to the try line.”

That Lomu try was in 1994, the first year of play at the Hong Kong Stadium, where New Zealand ended up beating Australia 32-20 in the final.

The Black Ferns have beaten all in sundry the last four tournaments to establish an almost unassailable 14-point lead in the World Series Standings with two events to play.

In 2022 Australia largely had the Black Ferns measure. What’s changed since the XV’s World Cup in October and November?

“I think the group has gotten even more competitive,” Hirini said.

“Players took their chance to show why they are in the team and are proving why they should be wearing the black jersey.

“It’s been awesome coming back and seeing the growth everyone has had and having to work even harder to make the team.”

It would be remiss when reflecting on the history of New Zealand female Sevens in Hong Kong not to mention the impact of Aotearoa Maori, an unofficial women’s seven team sent to represent New Zealand.

In 2002 Peter Joseph and his wife Shelly auctioned their house in Rotorua to ensure a Kiwi presence at the tournament with the newly put together team. Aotearoa Maori then became a juggernaut winning five tournaments in a row.

They featured Black Ferns legends like Honey Hireme-Smiler and Selica Winiata. In 2010, schoolgirl Sarah Hirini featured for the side.

“He literally started my sevens career. He gave me an opportunity when I was 17 to play for the Aotearoa Maori and I will always be grateful for that experience.”



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RUGBYPASS+ Billy Twelvetrees: 'Ed started pre-season with us and and nine months on he’s really struggling. Jesus Christ.' Billy Twelvetrees: 'Ed started pre-season with us and and nine months on he’s really struggling. Jesus Christ.'