Caleb Clarke will decide this week whether he will commit himself to this year’s Tokyo Olympics or stay with the Blues in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman and then for the All Blacks throughout the July test series.
The Blues will kickstart their Super Rugby Trans-Tasman campaign against the Rebels in Melbourne next Saturday, but whether Clarke partakes in that fixture, or in the competition as a whole, remains to be seen.
Speaking to Stuff last week, the 22-year-old wing said he will spend the coming days deciding whether it’s in his best interests to play the Australian franchises over the next month-and-a-bit, or push for a place in the All Blacks Sevens squad to chase an Olympic gold medal in Japan.
“I’ll just take this week [against the Chiefs] first and then have a look and see what’s after,” Clarke said prior to his side’s 39-19 Super Rugby Aotearoa win over their local rivals at Eden Park on Saturday.
“I’ve got a week in between, so that’s the week when I’ll make that decision on whether to go or stay.”
Clarke was part of the national sevens side at the beginning of last year as he looked to secure a place at the Olympics, which were scheduled to be held between last July and August before COVID-19 forced the postponement of the Games by a year.
His return to the XV-man game was groundbreaking as he took the newly-formed Super Rugby Aotearoa by storm with a series of blockbusting displays for the Blues.
Clarke was rewarded with a maiden call-up to the All Blacks, and his induction to test rugby was akin to that of a duck taking to water as he drew plenty of plaudits in his debut campaign with the national side, particularly for his efforts in the second Bledisloe Cup test.
Those performances have made him a near-certainty selection for the All Blacks should he make himself available for the mid-year tests against Italy and Fiji, even if his form has been below par this year.
“Personally I feel like I haven’t really got to my full potential, it’s been a lot harder this year, trying to get into these games,” Clarke told Stuff.
“So that’s one side of it, but on the other, the Olympics is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so we’ll see how we go.”
Should Clarke opt to throw his lot in with the All Blacks Sevens, he would have to abandon his commitments with the Blues and start training with the national sevens squad, who have been confined to makeshift tournaments in New Zealand as a result of global travel restrictions.
Reshaping his body to adhere to the physical demands required of a sevens player would take some time, meaning the Blues may have seen the last of Clarke this year should he pursue Olympic glory.
The All Blacks, however, would still be able to select Clarke for the Rugby Championship, which is believed to get underway in September.
Despite their win over the Chiefs two days ago, the Blues failed to qualify for this weekend’s Super Rugby Aotearoa final due to losing one more match than their counterparts.
As a result, the Chiefs will play the reigning champion Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday as they eye their first title in eight years.
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