Sevens stars prepare for Rio

By Peter White

A highly intense but successful week of training, fitness testing and trialling came to an end at Blake Park, Mount Maunganui for the All Blacks Sevens men's and women's teams on Friday night.

In a rare chance to pit their skills against each other, the two teams had a live opposed training run to put the final touches on their preparation for the IRB Sevens World Series second leg that starts in Dubai on Thursday.

The women's team has every reason to be excited as they are part of an historic few days in the desert competing at the very first Women's World Series.

With Olympic medals up for grabs in four years, the women's management team, headed by coach and former Bay Steamers maestro Sean Horan, spread the net far and wide to attract the best possible talent.

Vice-captain Sarah Goss says the results have been spectacular so far, with the team having awide range of skills and different athletic prowess.

"Some of the girls have never played before, which was interesting at the start,'' said Goss.

"We have players from athletics, with natural speed, and others, who were into netball, soccer and surf lifesaving.

"It is definitely a new team with a new culture, which is all about working together and growing together as a family.

"If you are close off the field you will perform on the field, and we do everything together. We laugh and play together and cry together, too, sometimes.''

Goss is not sure what to expect from the other teams in Dubai, but is confident they will do well after seeing nothing to worry them when they played the highly fancied Australians recently.

"There are some quite good teams there and most of them have more experience than us, having been together for two years or so.

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"We are really focused on our own performance and wanting to ensure we give 100 per cent.

"If we play to the best of our ability and don't win, then we will still be happy, but I am confident we are going to do well.''

Winning a gold medal at the Olympics in 2014 is now the No 1 goal for Goss and her teammates.

"Yeah, it rocks my boat for sure. It is a dream for me and the rest of the girls. It is everyone's goal and is a massive opportunity for us personally but also for the women's game.''

At the other end of the experience scale is the men's captain DJ Forbes. The undisputed most successful captain running around on the Sevens stage was impressed with what he saw training against the women's team and he expects them to do well.

"I hope this mixed training becomes a long-term thing,'' said Forbes.

"They are part of the All Blacks family now and they showed a lot of chatter and had a few moves up their sleeves that they brought out against us.

"It was good for us, too, as we got to work on our maps and get our D in place.

"Any opposition at training is good opposition and the women were well drilled.''

Forbes is excited to lead another team featuring a good mix of fresh faces, in debutants Milford Keresoma, Ben Lam and Sam Dickson, and older campaigners like Tomase Cama, Tim Mikkelson and Lote Raikabula.

"We have a good team, with some new talented boys but plenty of seniors still going strong who will nurture them and help them to be successful.

"In round one last month at the Gold Coast it was a pretty good achievement just to make the final. This time we have more seasoned campaigners who have played at a higher level so it is looking good.''


- Bay of Plenty Times

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