Rugby: Kenya likely to be toughest opponent for Sevens

By Campbell Burnes

All Blacks Sevens training at Blake Park. Photo / George Novak
All Blacks Sevens training at Blake Park. Photo / George Novak

The All Blacks Sevens to play in Paris this weekend still look a long way from full strength, but they do have some notable reinforcements for the final two tournaments of the World Series.

After the disappointment of Singapore last month, where they lost the Plate final to Samoa, New Zealand have work to do. They are third on the table (with 135), trailing Fiji (147) and South Africa (139).

The attack is still not gelling, though coach Gordon Tietjens did say he felt Sonny Bill Williams had his best outing in Singapore and it is true that the All Black is slowly starting to look more comfortable with his role in the shortened form of the game.

The return of Augustine Pulu should lift the playmaking quality but Tietjens still has injury concerns.

Liam Messam is ruled out with a calf strain, while Scott Curry, who travelled with the squad, was never in contention to play. Former skippers DJ Forbes and Tim Mikkelson could have played at a pinch, but Tietjens is erring on the side of caution in ensuring they are right for London next weekend.

The Ardie Savea saga is behind the team, who welcome back Akira Ioane, champing at the bit after sporadic game time for the Blues, and his younger brother Rieko, who has played the more consistent Super Rugby.

"It was a pretty easy squad to pick," said Tietjens. "Tim, DJ, Liam and Scott are out, so the 12 left standing will start. It's certainly a good squad with a lot of balance."

Kurt Baker is the new skipper for this event.

New Zealand's toughest pool opponents will surely be Kenya, who stunned Fiji to win the Cup final in Singapore.

There will be trials in mid-June before the Olympics squad is confirmed.

- NZ Herald

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