NZ Sevens teams named in preparation for World Cup defence

By Mana Wikaire-Lewis

The NZ Sevens teams have been named for next weekend's World Cup in South Africa where both men's and women's teams will be looking to defend their respective crowns that they won four years ago.

The All Blacks Sevens will be missing eight players through injury, including co-captain Tim Mikkelson and Joe Webber. However, they still have a number of Māori stars on hand including 2018 champions Kurt Baker, Dylan Collier and Regan Ware who are joined by Ngārohi McGarvey-Black plus rookie Brady Rush, who gets a chance to emulate his father Eric who was part of the champion team 21 years ago. 

The men's team will be looking to continue their momentum heading into the World Cup after claiming the Los Angeles leg of the HSBC World Sevens in the United States on Monday earlier this week, beating Fiji 28-21. 

Meanwhile, the Black Ferns Sevens team has seven stars returning to defend their title including captain Sarah Hirini who will be playing her 50th tournament for the team. Sevens veteran Portia Woodman will be making her third world cup sevens tournament appearance.

On the women's injured list is longtime playmaker Tyla-Nathan Wong, listed on the sidelines after making her Black Ferns debut in the 15-a-side jersey, having to be checked out for HIA (head injury assessment) last week in the Black Ferns' victory over the Wallaroos at the weekend.

The Rugby World Cup Sevens is a knockout tournament, with each team only playing one must-win match to advance to the quarter-finals. All games will be played at Cape Town Stadium, where 24 men's teams and 16 women's teams will take to the field.

Both teams get their campaign underway next Saturday in Cape Town, the Black Ferns against Colombia while the men will play the winner of Scotland vs Jamaica.