In the week leading up to the three-day tournament, current RWC7s holders New Zealand women and men look to retain Gold, ahead of the chasing nations.
The Rugby World Cup Sevens (RWC7s) is the prize that all teams present in San Francisco are aiming for – so the New Zealand Sevens teams must fight hard to retain their 2013 titles.
The three day tournament will be from the July 20-22 at the AT&T Park. 16 women’s and 24 men’s sides will compete across the three-days, all chasing the ultimate prize; both held currently by New Zealand.
Current RWC7s holders New Zealand women and men look to retain Gold
As the teams are assembling in the Bay area, every one of them bring their goals and objectives. And that includes the current RWC7s holders New Zealand.
As the 2013 champions in both draws, the holders have pressure on them naturally. But like any major competition, you cannot ‘defend a title’. You must win it again!
So the women’s head coach Alan Bunting, and the men’s head coach Clark Laidlaw each plan on an assault of both titles, with a focus on their preparations. The new training hub in Mt Maunganui has proved to be an invaluable base for both groups to pool their resources.
New Zealand Sevens Women’s squad
#BlackFerns7s coach Allan Bunting says the game now is so much stronger and faster than when they claimed the world title in Moscow back in 2013.
— Black Ferns (@BlackFerns) July 10, 2018
Waiting five years between tournaments, the Black Ferns Sevens are certainly the more successful of the New Zealand 7s groups. Multiple World Rugby Sevens Series titles, have been reinforced by the 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medal effort.
The team are one of the more composed in the tournament. With experience and youth, the leadership of Sarah Goss is supported by Kelly Brazier and Stacey Waaka. They are supported by Niall Williams, big tough Gayle Broughton and Theresa Fitzpatrick. But any team who have former Sevens players of the year Portia Woodman and Michaela Blyde within them, will be a fearsome team to hold down.
And while preparation is key, it will be attitude of the current RWC7s holders that proves to be the most critical component. If the positive group atmosphere which the Sevens Sisters used in the Gold Coast is replicated in San Francisco, than this group can move through the knockout format with both style and conviction. Alan Bunting told AllBlacks.com;
“It’s really exciting but I know the players ain’t finished yet.”
“Our players are incredibly motivated, playing in an amazing stadium and having the chance to leave mana there, to inspire other women, this is another great opportunity for our team,” said Bunting. That positive sentiment was also described by both women’s and men’s players.
— Black Ferns (@BlackFerns) July 10, 2018
Black Ferns Sevens squad: Shakira Baker | Michaela Blyde | Kelly Brazier | Gayle Broughton | Theresa Fitzpatrick | Sarah Goss – captain | Tyla Nathan-Wong | Ruby Tui | Stacey Waaka | Niall Williams | Tenika Willison | Portia Woodman
New Zealand Sevens Men’s squad
Recent success at the Commonwealth Games will be a confidence booster, as has the training hub and it’s ability to harmonize the team culture. 2013 was the peak of Sir Gordon Tietjens accomplishments in the All Black 7s, but this group will need to work harder than ever.
Scott Curry and Tim Mikkelsen handle the dual-leadership duties, with Kurt Baker offering his decision making ability. But it is in the structure and ‘real-time calls’ by all seven players that will prove how successful the 2018 vintage will be.
Much has been said about the selection of young Salesi Rayasi. In the planned-absence of Vilimoni Koroi, having young men to run hard from the offloads of the likes of Curry and Mikkelson will be key. Joining the ‘speed team’ of Joe Ravouvou and Sione Molia, Rayasi can show his promise in San Francisco.
— All Blacks Sevens (@AllBlacks7s) July 10, 2018
And promise is a keyword. As they have not been able to reach any higher than third place in the HSBC World Series, the current RWC7s holders will have to prove to both their opposition and to NZ supporters, that they hold promise. Winning every knockout match is key as well, so a good start is pivotal. Laidlaw told AllBlacks.com;
“We’ll treat the first game like a final. We’ll just narrow the focus on one team at a time and really rip into it,” he said.
Laidlaw and his team have created a close bond. The main photo shows them in a tight circle, and while being the current RWC7s holders is a bonus, it will also require the team to manage internal and external expectations. How the men’s team in particular handle that, will prove if they are a worthy comparison to the successful efforts of 2013.
All Blacks Sevens squad: Kurt Baker | Dylan Collier | Scott Curry; co-captain | Trael Joass | Andrew Knewstubb | Jona Nareki | Tim Mikkelson; co-captain | Sione Molia | Salesi Rayasi | Joe Ravouvou | Akuila Rokolisoa | Regan Ware
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images