A 13-man All Blacks Sevens team will spend the lead up to their 2018/19 HSBC Sevens World Series season opener in Dubai training in Abu Dhabi preparing for a strong start to their campaign.
All Blacks Sevens coach Clark Laidlaw has named the team for the first two legs of the 10-tournament world series in Dubai and Cape Town, which does not include co-captain Tim Mikkelson. Mikkelson will remain in New Zealand with the impending arrival of his first child.
The travelling All Blacks Sevens team, which left New Zealand on Tuesday, includes Scott Curry, Luke Masirewa and Ngarohi McGarvey-Black (Bay of Plenty), Tone Ng Shiu (Tasman), Dylan Collier (Waikato), Akuila Rokolisoa (Auckland), Sam Dickson (Canterbury), Andrew Knewstubb (Horowhenua Kapiti), Regan Ware and Kurt Baker (Taranaki), Jona Nareki (Otago), Sione Molia (Counties Manukau) and Scott Gregory (Northland), who is in line for his All Blacks Sevens debut on the World Series.
They join the 13-woman Black Ferns Sevens squad who left for Abu Dhabi on Saturday to train in preparation for Dubai - their second round of their six-tournament women's world series.
The New Zealand men's side was beaten finalists at Dubai last year and went on to win the Cape Town event the following week. Laidlaw said the focus was on a strong start again this season.
"If we could replicate our start from last year that would be great. It was an encouraging way to kick off the season but we probably struggled for consistency after that," Laidlaw said.
"We are under no illusions that with Olympic qualification on the line, every tournament is going to feel like a pinnacle event and teams will be wanting to finish in the top four at every tournament. So if we can make the finals at these events it would represent a great start to the season," said Laidlaw.
Molia, Nareki and Ware all re-join the All Blacks Sevens squad after their Mitre 10 Cup campaigns, with Ware also gaining a Maori All Blacks cap against USA earlier this month.
"It has been a bit of a juggling act over the last six weeks as we assembled our full group again but these guys played well in Mitre 10 Cup and have now been getting back into sevens conditioning and catching up on some of the detail around how we want to play the game," Laidlaw said.
Vilimoni Koroi remains in New Zealand working on his reintegration to sevens after a long break since the Commonwealth Games, Joe Webber is continuing his recovery from an arthritic injury and Joe Ravouvou awaits his New Zealand citizenship after changes to the World Series eligibility rules prevents him from competing until such time.
The New Zealand women's sevens side will be going into the Dubai tournament, when they will face Kenya, Russia and Ireland in pool play, with a target on their back after taking out the first round of the series in Colorado last month.
They will be without Portia Woodman, who ruptured her Achilles at training last week, and Niall Williams, who was recovering from a knee injury.
Coach Allan Bunting said travelling without Woodman and Williams was a loss to the team both on and off the field, but it also presented opportunities for other members of the squad.
All Blacks Sevens squad named for Dubai and Cape Town:
Scott Curry (Bay of Plenty)
Luke Masirewa (Bay of Plenty)
Tone Ng Shiu (Tasman)
Ngarohi McGarvey-Black (Bay of Plenty)
Dylan Collier (Waikato)
Akuila Rokolisoa (Auckland)
Sam Dickson (Canterbury)
Andrew Knewstubb (Horowhenua Kapiti)
Regan Ware (Taranaki)
Kurt Baker (Taranaki)
Jona Nareki (Otago)
Sione Molia (Counties Manukau)
Scott Gregory (Northland)
Men's HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series:
Dubai: November 30-December 1
Cape Town: December 8-9
Hamilton: January 26-27
Sydney: February 2-3
Las Vegas: March 1-3
Vancouver: March 9-10
Hong Kong: April 5-7
Singapore: April 13-14
London: May 25-26
Paris: June 1-2
Black Ferns Sevens squad named for Dubai:
Shakira Baker (Waikato)
Michaela Blyde (Bay of Plenty)
Kelly Brazier (Bay of Plenty)
Gayle Broughton (Taranaki)
Theresa Fitzpatrick (Auckland)
Sarah Goss (captain) (Manawatu)
Tyla Nathan-Wong (Auckland)
Risi Pouri-Lane (Tasman)
Alena Saili (Southland)
Terina Te Tamaki (Waikato)
Ruby Tui (Bay of Plenty)
Stacey Waaka (Waikato)
Katarina Whata-Simpkins (Wellington)
Women's HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series:
Dubai: November 29-30
Sydney: February 1-3
Japan: April 20-21
Langford: May 11-12
Paris: May 31-June 2