With an armoury of returning talent bolstering the side, the Black Ferns Sevens are ‘near to’ Full Strength for this weekends HSBC Hamilton 7s.
Several of the team’s most senior and influential players return for the New Zealand leg of the HSBC Women’s Sevens Series return after being named in the NZ Sevens squad. The first-ever time the women are a part of this stop on the World Series, which is all the more reason for the selected group to be fully prepared on home soil.
Both women’s and men’s competitions will play on a brand new surface at Hamilton’s FMG Stadium, Waikato. It promises to be hard and fast. The combined schedule will require a full timetable though to fit in all the action. Games beginning at 9:30am Saturday, with a very early 8:45am Sunday morning start for the third round of women’s pool play, to fill in all the games.
Even though that would almost make for a 12-hour window of matches Sunday; including playoff games, and the important Cup and Challenge Trophy finals, yet it won’t be an ‘all day drinking session’. Those days are past, as the sport and [hopefully] the supporters have grown up a little, with the NZ Sevens leg being one of the premier weekends of the World circuit.
So on this 21st anniversary of the series being hosted by New Zealand (firstly by Wellington, and now Hamilton) it is sure to be a party that the Black Ferns Sevens will be extra happy that they are now an official part of.
— HSBC NZ Sevens (@NZ_Sevens) January 20, 2020
Black Ferns Sevens near to Full Strength for HSBC Hamilton 7s
Kelly Brazier, Michaela Blyde (see main picture), captain Sarah Hirini, have all been repaired and are fit and willing to play for this weekend. Playing on home soil, in front of family, friends, and their countrymen and women – a hugely proud honour. Brazier spoke of how it would be ‘a long-held dream’.
“To now finally have it here, I’m over the moon,” Brazier told 1 NEWS. “Knowing amongst that is your family and friends and when you look around at the team just the smiles on their faces is pretty priceless.”
Blyde adds pace, however, Portia Woodman is still missing. In saying that, the young talent that this group holds is still top-shelf. Alena Saili, Ruby Tui, and newlywed Stacey Fluhler (nee Waaka) are just a few of the names who can ‘turn it on’. Strong members of the Sevens Sisters, who will welcome back their regular leadership with open arms [and bigger smiles].
For a two-code World Champion player’s like Brazier and Hirini, this is the accolade each will be proudest to have accomplished. And it was through Black Ferns Sevens high-performance standards and consistency, that it almost forced-the-hand of World Rugby to create a space in the calendar for them.
modern 7s sports fan demanded it, but these women all earned it.
The Women’s Sevens Series is fast gaining an equal billing beside the Men. Skills and attitudes are similar, with one of the only distinctions being strength and physicality – although, watch any top-flight women’s game today – France vs England – and you’re likely to have your breath taken away (such is the intensity).
For the Hamilton 7s, and the Sydney 7s leg the following weekend, the women stand on equal footing with the men. Frankly speaking, Last Word on Rugby could honestly see the day that a women’s Cup final is scheduled as the climactic final match of a World Rugby tournament. That seems only fair, in this modern era.
HSBC NZ7s – Kiwi teams cannot be complacent
The one concern for the women, as well as the New Zealand men, might be that they suffer from a degree of complacency. That is not an assumption, it is more awareness of the struggles that some sides feel. The long break being the most alarming factor [potentially]. Not playing since December 15, the month-long break; combined with the festive holiday season, it might be that ‘time on the beach’ has left them off the mark.
Hard to imagine, and news reports show both groups training hard at their hub in Mt Maunganui. But stories of complacency are a common thread in sport. How up a side can feel, only to lose that confidence after one poor result – underlying how every side needs to win all their pool games. Not only to feel comfortable that they are prepared for the playoffs, to meet self-expectations.
Of concerns, other teams; especially in the Northern Hemisphere, have been wholly focused on their preparations. Expect the English, Canadians, and the Americans especially, will be peaking. That is the goal today for all teams but, for the hosts [NZ this leg, Australia next week] it is to remain on course and not be overwhelmed.
USA Women's Sevens named for fourth round of women's @WorldRugby7s in Hamilton.
WATCH on @NBCSportsGold Jan 24-26 (ET).
— USA Rugby (@USARugby) January 17, 2020
To not to be distracted by family, by the home fans, and not by any far off distant Olympic dream. Michaela Blyde spoke of that fact positively, when she told NZME “We have a few more World Series tournaments before we start to focus on the Olympics. And for me especially, I’m taking it a day at a time and trying to get my body right and put myself in a position to play in the World Series.”
With three supremely talented players returning, they will naturally add something. Although, the Tyla Nathan-Chong led group has already won leg two and three of the World Series. The side is traveling extremely well, so complacency is a caution; not a fact.
In reality, one game at a time is the Minimum requirement from the ferns squad, playing on home soil.
For the men, it will be to be consistent – not wanting to drop any pool games, before aiming clearly at the quarterfinals, semifinals…and possibly higher.
HSBC Hamilton 7s – January 25-26, FMG Stadium
Black Ferns Sevens squad:
Michaela Blyde, Gayle Broughton, Kelly Brazier, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Stacey Fluhler (nee Waaka), Sarah Hirini (c), Tyla Nathan-Wong, Mahina Paul, Risaleeana Pouri-Lane, Alena Saili, Ruby Tui, Niall Williams, Tenika Willison.
All Blacks Sevens:
Kurt Baker, Dylan Collier, Scott Curry, Sam Dickson, Vilimoni Koroi, Tim Mikkelson, Ngarohi McGarvey-Black, Sione Molia, Tone Ng Shiu, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Salesi Rayasi, Regan Ware, Joe Webber.
“Main photo credit”