Portia Woodman returns after 12 month absence

By Te Ao - Māori News

After a year away recovering from an achilles injury, Sevens Superstar Portia Woodman is expected to make her return to the Black Ferns Sevens side this weekend at the Oceania Sevens in Suva, Fiji.

Co-coach Corey Sweeney says Woodman, “has been working really hard in the background and this is an exciting opportunity to get off the training field without the pressure of it being a World Series event.”

The tournament, featuring both men’s and women’s teams serves as the Oceania Olympic Qualifiers, will be Woodman’s first tournament since rupturing her achillies during training in November last year.

The Black Ferns coaches are also using the tournament to blood some new talent ahead of the World Series Sevens tournament in Dubai next month, with squad members Jazmin Hotham and Mahina Paul named alongside development squad players Tysha Ikenasio and Amy Du Plessis.

“It’s the perfect opportunity to expose new and exciting talent to an international tournament with quality opposition. Mahina and Jaz have been with us for the year but have had injuries; we’ve seen a shift in their energy and focus as this tournament approaches and they know they are going to get on the field,” said Sweeney.

In the men’s section, Clark Laidlaw has also named four players set to make their debuts. William Warbrick, Te Rangatira Waitokia, Jamie Spowart and Niko Jones join the likes of Kurt Baker, Dylan Collier and Tim Mikkleson in Suva.

Coach Clark Laidlaw said it was a great opportunity for the young players to gain international experience.

“Pre-season tournaments allow us to give younger players some good exposure. It’s a genuine opportunity for us to build depth; we’ve got a long season ahead of us so its important.”

The Oceania Tournament serves as the second pre-series tournament for the All Blacks Sevens after participating in the Oktoberfest Sevens last month., while the Black Ferns Sevens kicked their World Series off with a third place finish in Glendale in October.

While the Oceania tournament serves as an Olympic qualifier, both New Zealand teams have already secured qualification to Tokyo 2020 and will be participating in the parallel “international” section in Suva. The All Blacks Sevens will play Fiji, New Caledonia and Niue and Japan, while the Black Ferns Sevens will play Australia, Japan and Canada.

Both teams will then prepare for the Dubai leg of the World Series, taking place in December.

The All Blacks Sevens team is: (*denotes debut)

Kurt Baker                               Manawatu

Dylan Collier                           Waikato

Scott Curry                              Bay of Plenty

Taylor Haugh                           Otago

Trael Joass                              Tasman

Niko Jones*                             Auckland

Ngarohi McGarvey-Black         Bay of Plenty

Tim Mikkelson                         Waikato

Amanaki Nicole                       Canterbury

Akuila Rokolisoa                      Counties Manukau

Jamie Spowart*                        Tasman

Te Rangatira Waitokia*            Manawatu

William Warbrick*                    Bay of Plenty

The Black Ferns Sevens team is (*denotes debut)

Shakira Baker                          Waikato

Amy Du Plessis*                       Otago

Tysha Ikenasio*                       Auckland

Rhiarna Ferris                         Manawatu

Theresa Fitzpatrick                Auckland

Jazmin Hotham*                     Waikato

Huia Harding                           Waikato

Mahina Paul*                           Bay of Plenty

Cheyelle Robins-Reti              Waikato          

Alena Saili                               Southland

Montessa Tairakena                Waikato

Tenika Willison                        Waikato

Portia Woodman                     Counties Manukau