Talent identification is a critical tool for all leading rugby nations, and this week New Zealand Rugby pointed the finger squarely at Nico Jones. A talented student from national schools champions St Peter’s College, who happens to be the son of the ‘Iceman’ – former All Black Michael Jones.
Aside from his father, Nico Jones has inherited the famous speed and athleticism of Polynesian sports people, and over his successful term with the school’s rugby team, he enjoyed multiple titles and the highest accolades from rugby commentators. Now, with a world of options, the 18-year-old has made a choice to play professionally in New Zealand.
His accelerated journey has been through natural ability, good direction from his school, his parents and his faith. Those qualities, as much as the talent identification programs of Auckland Rugby and New Zealand Rugby, mean he will have a bright future when aiming to join the World Champion All Blacks Sevens training hub in Tauranga.
The sport is still enjoying incredible growth and knowing that it is not only rugby players that can become successful in rugby sevens, the games national body launched an initiative to canvas a wider range of young women and men to find the next ‘superstar’.
NEWS | The 48 men and 48 women who have been selected to take part in the @RedBull Ignite7 talent programme have been named. Check the teams out below. 🔥🏉
— Black Ferns (@BlackFerns) October 25, 2018
The Red Bull Ignite7 mission is to select new athletes to join the women’s and men’s Sevens training hubs, and this will also e where the outstanding talent of Nico Jones will look to begin his bright future in the senior game.
Nico Jones bright future, and the Red Bull Ignite7 tournament
New Zealand Rugby (NZR) are looking to identify emerging rugby sevens talent. Teaming up with heavyweight sponsor Red Bull to promote and develop the Ignite7 program, and to align their successful brand with the fast sport of 7s.
Brand association has worked in the favor of NZR, the All Blacks, and now with dual World Champions, the All Blacks 7s and Black Ferns 7s. The backing a Red Bull and other partners has initiated applications from all over New Zealand, from aspiring athletes of all backgrounds. No matter the experience, every promising athlete was gauged and then added to the list of 48 women and men.
A pathway for young sports people to compete for places in the national sevens teams, along with many aspiring sevens specialist who are annually putting their hands up – as Nico Jones surely has.
— Te Māngai Pāho (@MangaiPaho) November 1, 2018
There is no denying Nico Jones’ bright future in rugby. Many predicted he would be the perfect candidate to choose a path towards the highest rugby-honour; the All Blacks. In his choice, of signing with the NZR and targeting the rugby sevens format to start with, his enthusiasm and pure energy will likely be of benefit to the AB7s.
Jones and others will compete in the Red Bull Ignite7 tournament to be held at the Trusts Arena (in Jones’ hometown of West Auckland), and the unique four-day event from November 21-24 will test all of the invited 48 female and 48 male applicants. Fitness testing, skills assessment and finally, in the intense seven-minute halves, of a real-time match.
No simulation anymore for these aspiring rugby players. Each group will then be reduced to a selected few, and six of the athletes chosen will emerge from the week having won a place at the All Black Sevens and Black Ferns Sevens development camps in early 2019.
So for the 96 players, and the six candidates who will join Nico Jones (as a contracted player) in Tauranga, all looking to make the [still to be confirmed] 2020 Olympic Games squads. That is now the ultimate goal for every rugby sevens player.
Very different times from when Michael Jones tore around the rugby field, but if Nico can emulate his father, then he might excel in one jersey before aiming at wearing another Silver Fern in the very near future.
The Red Bull Ignite7 tournament begins on November 21
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