Black Ferns Sevens coach Allan Bunting has opted for experience in his squad for the HSBC Sydney Sevens as the Dubai winners and Olympic silver medallists look to maintain their position at the top of the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series 2016-17 standings.
Bunting has named only one uncapped player in his 12-strong squad in teenager Alena Saili as he looks to continue building towards next year and the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.
“We had a great start to the series in Dubai, but we know that the rest of the world would have had some very valuable time in preparing for Sydney and that teams will be a lot more prepared, so we will have to take our game to another level to do well,” admitted Bunting.
“Sydney is about building on the foundations we have created.
“We have decided to provide continuity to most of the players who went to Dubai while giving opportunities to younger players to learn and grow around the experienced ones.
“It’s great to give Alena Saili this oppotunity. Alena impressed hugely at the nationals a couple of weeks ago and has fitted in really well with the squad, along with Lyric Faleafanga. When she plays she doesn’t look like someone who has just finished school, so I think it is a great opportunity for her to experience the next level, which is quite a step up, with no pressure on her from us, just to go and see and feel what it's like and she will adapt and learn when she is ready.
“Both of the travelling reserves, Tenika Willison and Cheyelle Robins-Reti, are also young players we want to expose to international competition. Tenika played in Dubai and went very well so we want to continue to give her continuity. For Chey starting off as a travelling reserve is a good way to get tournament exposure and the opportunity to continue to train with the team and develop in the team environment.
“We enter Sydney off the back of a good start in Dubai, a really encouraging national tournament where a lot of new talent was on display and a great week preparing in Wellington with the wider contracted squad. We are looking forward to getting back out there and putting our learning’s into practice.”
The top seeds will face Olympic bronze medallists Canada, France and invitational team Papua New Guinea in Pool A at the Allianz Stadium on 3-4 February.
New Zealand squad: Sarah Goss (captain), Michaela Blyde, Kelly Brazier, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Tyla Nathan-Wong, Alena Saili, Terina Te Tamaki, Ruby Tui, Kat Whata-Simpkins, Renee Wickliffe, Niall Williams, Portia Woodman.
Travelling reserves: Tenika Willison, Cheyelle Robins-Reti
KISH BACK IN THE MIX FOR CANADA
Canada coach John Tait has named a 14-strong squad for a training camp ahead of the HSBC Sydney Sevens on 3-4 February, round two of the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series 2016-17.
The Olympic bronze medallists will travel to Australia early for a training camp at Narrabean with Tait to select his final 12 for the tournament on Sunday.
Twelve of the training squad were involved in the opening round in Dubai last December, where Canada finished sixth.
The new additions are Jen Kish, who hasn't played since Rio 2016 due to injury, and Kaili Lukan, the younger sister of Megan who would make her series debut if she makes the final cut for Sydney.
Canada will face Dubai winners and Olympic silver medallists New Zealand as well as France and invitational team Papua New Guinea in Pool at the HSBC Sydney Sevens.
Canada squad: Britt Benn, Hannah Darling, Bianca Farella, Julia Greenshields, Sara Kaljuvee, Jen Kish, Ghislaine Landry, Kaili Lukan, Megan Lukan, Kayla Moleschi, Breanne Nicholas, Ashley Steacy, Natasha Watcham-Roy, Charity Williams.
FRANCE KEEP THE FAITH
France coach David Courteix has largely kept faith with the squad that finished seventh in the opening round of the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series for next month's HSBC Sydney Sevens.
One notable absentee will be the experienced Marjorie Mayans, who is in Les Bleues' 15s squad for the Women's Six Nations which begins the same weekend as the series stops off in Sydney for the first time, on 3-4 February.
Clémence Gueucier and Chloé Pelle, meanwhile, will make their first appearances of the 2016-17 series in Sydney where France will face Dubai winners New Zealand, Olympic bronze medallists Canada and series debutants Papua New Guinea, the invited team for round two.
“Yes, it was a very disappointing performance in Dubai, where we sometimes found it hard to perform at our level, but we must not be pessimistic,” insisted Courteix.
“We know what is required in sevens. If you show up at 80 per cent of your capacity, your game drops, you start having doubts and you drown. However, we can rebuild for a better future and we are working hard for this.”
France squad: Montserrat Amedee, Pauline Biscarat, Mathilde Coutouly, Laürelin Fourcade, Camille Grassineau, Lina Guerin, Clémence Gueucier, Fanny Horta (captain), Carla Neisen, Chloé Pelle, Joanna Sainlo, Rose Thomas.