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