Rugby: One new cap in Black Ferns 7s for Sydney

By Campbell Burnes

New Zealand's Portia Woodman jumps a tackle to score a try against Australia. Photo / Photosport.co.nz
New Zealand's Portia Woodman jumps a tackle to score a try against Australia. Photo / Photosport.co.nz

Invercargill teenager Alena Saili, fresh out of Southland GHS, is the only new cap in an experienced Black Ferns Sevens squad selected for the Sydney round of the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series next week.

Head Coach Allan Bunting said the Sydney tournament was another opportunity to continue the teams goal for this series of building their foundations for next year and the Tokyo Olympics 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. Sydney is about building on the foundations we have created.

"We have decided to provide continuity to most for 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 opportunity. Alena impressed hugely at the nationals a couple of weeks ago and has fitted in really well with the squad, along with Lyric Faleafaga. 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."

It is a strong New Zealand combination, despite the controversial absence of Selica Winiata, whose omission caused a storm in her home province of Manawatu.

New Zealand trained in Wellington this week, combining some promotional activities with the All Blacks Sevens. In Sydney, they will face Canada, France and Papua New Guinea.

In Dubai for the series opener last month, New Zealand turned the tables on their Australian nemesis, winning the Cup final 17-5.

The team is (*new cap):
Sarah Goss (c), 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 are: Tenika Willison, Cheyelle Robins-Reti*

- NZ Herald

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