Caleb Clarke named in extended All Blacks Sevens squad as Olympics deadline looms
Caleb Clarke’s pursuit for Olympic glory has received a boost as he has been named in an extended All Blacks Sevens squad to play at the Oceania Sevens in Townsville next weekend.
The New Zealand national side will be joined by the Black Ferns Sevens as they square off against their Australian and Fijian counterparts at Queensland Country Bank Stadium.
The tournament provides the first opportunity for the All Blacks Sevens to play abroad since the outbreak of COVID-19 last March.
Clarke was among the stars in New Zealand’s last appearance overseas, their title-winning showing at the 2020 Vancouver Sevens, and the five-test All Blacks star will again feature for the national sevens side in their next international trip.
It comes after the 22-year-old flourished in his return to the All Blacks Sevens last month as Clark Laidlaw’s mean whitewashed Australia over a six-match series in Auckland.
Clarke’s inclusion in the 19-man squad is particularly significant given the final 12-man squad to travel to next month’s Tokyo Olympics will be named on June 30, three days after the conclusion of the Oceania Sevens.
“There were definitely some tight calls with players who have missed out, but we know their time will come and they will be really good players for us in the future,” Laidlaw said of his squad, which also features Chiefs speedster Etene Nanai-Seturo.
“We’ve created a lot of competition for places so it’s important we play as well as we can next week and then we can turn our attention to making some tough decisions when it comes to that Olympics squad.”
Black Ferns head coach Alan Bunting is approaching the upcoming tournament with a similar outlook with an array of stars – such as Portia Woodman, Ruby Tui, Tyla Nathan-Wong, Niall Williams and Michaela Blyde, among others – at his disposal.
“Playing other teams is important, Fiji will bring something different, and we expect the Australian team to be strong. We’ve been building our foundations for a while so this is about cementing that squad for the Olympics,” he said.
The Oceania Sevens will kick-off next Friday and will run through until next Sunday.
All Blacks Sevens squad to play at Oceania Sevens
Kurt Baker, Caleb Clarke, Dylan Collier, Scott Curry, Sam Dickson, Trael Joass, Andrew Knewstubb, Vilimoni Koroi, Ngarohi McGarvey-Black, Tim Mikkelson, Sione Molia, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Tone Ng Shiu, Amanaki Nicole, Akuila Rokolisoa, William Warbrick, Regan Ware, Joe Webber and Kitiona Vai.
Black Ferns Sevens squad to play at Ocean Sevens
Shakira Baker, Michaela Blyde, Kelly Brazier, Gayle Broughton, Dhys Faleafaga, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Stacey Fluhler, Sarah Hirini, Jazmin Hotham, Shiray Kaka, Tyla Nathan-Wong, Risaleaana Pouri-Lane, Alena Saili, Terina Te Tamaki, Ruby Tui, Niall Williams, Tenika Willison and Portia Woodman.
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