The All Blacks Sevens are missing no less than nine players through injury, including their captain, plus their talented young playmaker for the Paris leg of the World Series on May 13-14.
Currently fourth on the standings with just the final two tournament legs to play, New Zealand are desperate to reach a Cup final, or even the semifinals, but will have to do so without a catalogue of players which include Scott Curry (concussion), Dylan Collier (knee), Iopu Iopu-Aso (wrist), Joe Ravouvou (knee), Isaac Te Tamaki (knee) and Beaudein Waaka (broken leg). Andrew Knewstubb (thigh contusion) and Teddy Stanaway (knee infection) have been ruled out of the Paris event but could return as injury cover for London on May 20-21.
Teenaged playmaker Vilimoni Koroi, who has shown some nice touches amid some errors this season, is unavailable due to a "planned return to Mitre 10 Cup preparation," which presumably means he will be back playing 15s club rugby in Otago. Rocky Khan returns to assume the playmaking role, but coach Scott Waldrom has been forced to go outside his 20 contracted players. There are three debutants in Jamie Booth of Manawatu, Fa'asiu Fuatai of Otago and Jesse Houston of Canterbury.
"We've had a good week in camp at the Mount as we prepare for Paris next weekend. Jamie, Fa'asiu and Jesse have slotted in well with the game plans and are gelling with the more experienced players," Waldrom says.
"We are looking forward to upping our performance in the last two tournaments of the series. While we are placed fourth overall, our aim is to improve that ranking, and as always, win the next two tournaments.
"Paris is an opportunity for the team to play with the determination and consistency we know we're capable of. When we are on our game we have beaten the teams ahead of us in the series standings. This tournament is about putting together six consistent performances and playing at our peak every game as we're in a very tough pool again.
"It's disappointing we have so many injuries, but this is a great opportunity for the new guys to put their hand up to be involved in the All Blacks Sevens programme. At this stage in the season, a lot of teams are getting hit with injuries, so it's something we have to accept and deal with. The new players have brought some great enthusiasm to training this week and it has lifted everyone's performance so far."
The squad for Paris and London is:
DJ Forbes (Counties Manukau, c), Sam Dickson (Canterbury), Trael Joass (Tasman), Tim Mikkelson (Waikato), Sione Molia (Counties Manukau), Regan Ware (Bay of Plenty), Lewis Ormond (Taranaki), Tone Ng Shiu (Tasman), Sherwin Stowers (Counties Manukau), Joe Webber (Bay of Plenty), Rocky Khan (Auckland), Jamie Booth (Manawatu), Fa'asiu Fuatai (Otago), Jesse Houston (Canterbury)
Schedule for All Blacks Sevens' Paris pool play:
Day 1: May 13/14
8.44pm NZT v Wales
12.10am NZT v Argentina
3.58am NZT v USA
Day 2: May 14/15