The Black Ferns Sevens may be in rebuilding mode after the Rio Olympics, but they are entering the Dubai season opener next weekend with eight survivors from that silver-medal winning campaign.

Standing in their way will, of course, be those pesky Australians, the defending World Series and Olympic champions, fresh from an Oceania Sevens triumph a fortnight ago.

Several players are injured, retired or unavailable, Kayla McAlister falling into the latter category, while Huriana Manuel has called time on her sevens career. Black Ferns backs Portia Woodman and Kelly Brazier will join the squad in Dubai after the test against Ireland on Monday (NZT). There are two new caps in playmakers Tenika Willison and Rebekah Cordero-Tufuga, plus the two non-travelling reserves.

Allan Bunting steps up from assistant coach to take the reins from Sean Horan and his presence will ensure continuity, though his management team is yet to be finalised.


Bunting says he is laying the foundation for Tokyo 2020, but realises that NZ Rugby's priority for the women's game until August is the Women's Rugby World Cup. The schedule does not overlap, but he will work closely with Black Ferns coach Glenn Moore to see which players can be used in his programme.

"It's about putting the Black Ferns 15s into the best possible place to win their World Cup. If Glenn wants players to play sevens to help their 15s, then he's happy to do that," Bunting says.

He would have loved his players to have turned out in the Oceania Sevens, and says all those not injured will be involved in January's national provincial sevens event.

"My philosophy is having the players play as much as possible to build resilience and so it's not just train, train, train," he says.

The good news on that front is that a sixth World Series tournament is due to be added this season, details of which will be announced in Dubai next week.

Ireland, Fiji and France are in the Black Ferns' pool.

The Black Ferns Sevens fly out tonight for Dubai, while the All Blacks Sevens, with Otago Mitre 10 Cup halfback Jono Ruru as the sole new cap, fly out tomorrow night, as their tournament kicks off a day later. It will be fascinating to see how swiftly they came up to speed under new interim coaches Scott Waldrom and Tomasi Cama. They have Russia, Samoa and England in their Dubai pool, and will then travel to Cape Town for the second leg of the World Series.

Black Ferns Sevens: Sarah Goss (c), Ruby Tui, Shakira Baker, Jordon Webber, Niall Williams, Michaela Blyde, Tyla Nathan-Wong, Kelly Brazier, Tenika Willison, Kat Whata-Simpkins, Portia Woodman, Rebekah Cordero-Tufuga. Travelling reserves: Jess Drummond, Danielle Paenga

All Blacks Sevens: Scott Curry (c), DJ Forbes, Tim Mikkelson, Antonio Kirikiri, Dylan Collier, Beaudein Waaka, Iopu Iopu-Aso, Rocky Khan, Sherwin Stowers, Jonathan Ruru, Isaac Te Tamaki, Sione Molia