Whānau members present sevens teams with Jerseys

By Ruth Smith

Traditionally, the New Zealand Sevens competition jersey ceremony would take place at Pipitea Marae in Wellington. 

However, the relocation of the competition to Hamilton has seen local whānau invited to take part in the team ritual for the first time.  

"Our families are giving out the jerseys on Friday night so it's something special for us," says Tim Mikkelson, captain of the men’s sevens team.

It will be extra special for Black Ferns Sevens captain Sarah Hirini and her side.

"I'm extremely excited.  It's the first time we've been able to play at home under the Black Ferns Sevens and in the black jersey, so, for us...we just can't wait to get out there in front of a lot of family and friends and hopefully do them proud this weekend."

The French women's team are the third-ranked team in the world, earning them a spot in the four team tournament.  

"It's our first time to come here to come to New Zealand, for me and for the French team rugby sevens.  It's very important for the French team," says French captain, Fanny Horta.

The Black Ferns will have a tough first game against second-ranked England on Saturday afternoon.  

China is the fourth team to make up the competition. 

"I know these teams are going to want to knock us off at home.  That's a massive factor for us and we just want to make sure that we're doing everything we possibly can to not let that happen," says Hirini. 

Meanwhile, playing on home soil will be a highlight in Mikkelson's career.

"I'm from the Waikato and we have a few other boys so to play at our home stadium is amazing but, like I said, we've only got one home tournament and the boys really want to make it count- and we've got all our families coming," he says.

The men’s team will face off against Japan in their tournament opener.