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'You are having bad days': Kirwan calls for more superstars in All Blacks Sevens side

By Ben Smith
New Zealand's All Blacks Sevens team celebrates with their trophy after winning the cup final against Argentina on the second day of the Los Angeles 2023 World Rugby Sevens Series event at Dignity Health Sports Park on February 26, 2023 in Carson, California. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

After winning back-to-back events in Sydney and Los Angeles, the All Blacks Sevens stumbled to a quarter-final loss to Australia in Vancouver on the World Rugby Sevens Series.

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Whilst the Black Ferns Sevens have dominated the circuit, winning four of the five events in the 22/23 Sevens Series, the men have found the competition tougher since 2014.

The All Blacks Sevens won 12 Series out the first 15 years of competition since the year 2000, routinely taking 1st place but that has changed with just one title from the last seven years.

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In 2023 they are back in pole position but the race is tighter than ever before with Argentina breathing down their necks after taking gold in Vancouver over the weekend.

Former All Black John Kirwan discussed the matter on Sky Sport NZ’s The Breakdown and came to the conclusion that is just reality now.

“The 7s are going pretty well, they are top, they’ve already qualified [for the Paris Olympics],” Kirwan said.

“The men’s game, if you are watching it a lot, you are having bad days.

“You have a bad day, have a bad game, can’t get the ball. They nearly lost and just won in the last minute in one of the other qualifying games.”

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The All Blacks Sevens have been led by veterans Tim Mikkelson, Joe Webber, Sam Dickson and Dylan Collier for some time now.

Fijian-born Akuila Rokolisoa has become the real star of the side and this year’s breakout player Roderick Solo has added some real firepower to the side.

But Kirwan had a solution to boost the men’s side with the Paris Olympics just around the corner and highlighted the difference between the men and the Black Ferns.

“The difference between our male and our female 7s game is our superstars from our 15s do go to the 7s,” Kirwan said.

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“That doesn’t happen in our male game and I think it is something we possibly need to look at.

“Can we have a few more crossover athletes? I think these athletes are great, don’t get me wrong, they are winning it, so no complaints there.”

Following the win at the Rugby World Cup 2021 in 15s, Black Ferns heroes Portia Woodman-Wickliffe, Stacey Waaka [Fluhler], Theresa Fitzpatrick, and Sarah Hirini have all switched back to 7s.

“But the superstar, we are going to go to next year’s Olympics, can we have that situation where guys crossover?” Kirwan asked.

“But they would need to crossover at the beginning of the year.”

Ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics Sonny Bill Williams made the switch to play 7s while at the Tokyo 2020 event, played in 2021, Caleb Clarke made the crossover but didn’t end up being picked in the playing squad, instead travelling as a reserve.

The men’s side finished with silver in the 2020 Olympic final after losing to Fiji.

Often some of the brightest young talents in New Zealand are given the chance to start their professional rugby careers on the 7s circuit. Rieko Ioane and Etene Nanai-Seturo are examples, while the latest is Carlos Spencer’s son Peyton who has also signed with the Blues.

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Andrew 465 days ago

JK. Just where are they to get these stars from?

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