All Blacks Sevens coach Clark Laidlaw remains positive of having the services of several Super Rugby players for their Tokyo Olympics campaign, despite the changing schedule of the event.
With the event initially scheduled between late July and early August, players from four of the five Kiwi Super Rugby teams had committed to joining the Sevens system. However, with Covid-19 setting in, sending the sporting world into uncertainty and pushing the Olympic Games back a year, those players were available to take part in Super Rugby Aotearoa.
Now, with the Olympics approaching in the year ahead, it remains to be seen as to whether the same players will be made available to the Sevens.
“We’ve made no secret that the hope is we’ll still get the same players,” Laidlaw told Newstalk ZB Sport’s Jason Pine.
‘It was just a blur you know. Probably like a nightmare I guess.’https://t.co/2X1fP2pUEJ
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“While it’s moved in the last year, year and a half, since we agreed with the Super Rugby clubs which players were going to come in, our hope is that those players will be available either at the start of the year, or it looks like certain windows maybe after Super Rugby Aotearoa, which finishes the first weekend in May. That would still give a player three months, or 12 weeks, to be ready for the Olympics.
“We’ve had good conversations with the players and the Super Rugby clubs. We’re pretty comfortable we know where we’re at with those players and when they’ll join us, if they’ll join us. We’ll just get through this little period and see if the world starts to get a bit more certain, then we’ll get a bit more certain on those players too.”
Etene Nanai-Seturo (Chiefs), Salesi Rayasi (Hurricanes), Scott Gregory (Highlanders) and Caleb Clarke (Blues) were all expected to miss the Super Rugby season to spend time in camp with the Sevens team to build towards the Games.
However, with the Games pushed back, they were all available to their clubs for Super Rugby Aotearoa, and all played a role for their teams to varying degrees; Clarke ended the year as an All Blacks winger after quickly making a name for himself in his opportunity with the Blues.
Now arguably New Zealand’s hottest young rugby talent, there are thoughts that Clarke may not be released to the Sevens this time around.
But while there may be concerns for some, Laidlaw was confident Clarke would be available.
“We’re hopeful. Caleb loves his time here, he keeps in contact regularly with the players, myself and some of the staff, so we’ve had good conversations with Caleb; he’s had good conversations with the Blues and All Blacks around wanting to be involved, so we’re really positive about Caleb.
“Once we get through this little period, if it becomes certain the Olympics are going to go ahead – and we are confident that will be the case, then we’re really positive around Caleb being in the mix again.”
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