NZ U17 and U18 Sevens girl don black jersey for the first time

Up-and-coming sevens talent will don the black jersey for the first time this weekend at the World School Sevens tournament in Auckland.

NZ Under 17 and Under 18 girls came together for the first sevens training programme of its kind.

What NZ Rugby's Talent Development Manager Chad Tuoro hopes will produce the next talent pool to take New Zealand to the 2020 Olympics.

Fifty-four fresh faces could be the future of women's sevens in New Zealand. This week the two teams came together at Auckland's Kings College in their first training camp where they will represent New Zealand for the first time.

NZ Under 18 player, Rina Paraone says “It's pretty unreal aye, being a part of it all and getting to represent my country. It's pretty cool.”

For Under 17 player Kalyn Takitimu-Cook it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. “Usually all the men get the shine but now it's creating more opportunities for other girls out there that really want to pursue a career in sevens. For some of us this is probably the biggest achievement we've made for our families, making them really proud.”

The teams were selected following extensive secondary school trials across the country. For many it could be the beginning of a career in international rugby.

Tuoro says “Basically the purpose of this is 2020 Olympics and being the first year in the four year cylcle this year has been about identifying the potential talent pool that could be strong candidates for 2020 as well as recruiting new athletes to our game.”

Women's rugby is becoming one of the fastest growing sports in NZ following the success of the Black Ferns and Black Ferns Sevens. Something Tuoro says he is witnessing first hand.

“Within sevens we’ve definitely seen a lot of girls who have come from other sports and are now giving rugby a go, sacrificing their tradition sports at times to be part of sevens and these programmes.”

Takitimu-Cook is one of those who made the change, she’s only been playing rugby for a year. “I've come out straight from touch. I've got a touch background since I was nine. So the skills that I've developed there have been like my bread and butter for sevens” says.

It's the first sevens programme of its kind, what Tuoro hopes will become a staple diet for summer sports.

The NZ U17 and U18 teams will come up against opposition from Australia, Samoa, Japan and Tonga this weekend at Sacred Heart College.