The Black Ferns Sevens team named to compete at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco. Photo/ George Novak 100718gn05bop.JPG
Mount Maunganui based sevens player Portia Woodman. Photo/ George Novak 100718gn06bop.JPG
By Kristin Macfarlane
There are a lot of firsts ahead for the All Blacks Sevens and Black Ferns as they head to San Francisco for the Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament.
However, one thing that remains consistent is the need to give everything they have during the competition.
Both squads leave for the Californian city this weekend ahead of the knock-out Rugby World Cup competition they have spent the past few months preparing for, going into it as defending champions.
Those selected to defend New Zealand's double titles at the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens were named at Mount Maunganui yesterday afternoon, with four of the 12 in the Black Ferns squad being Bay players.
The Rugby World Cup Sevens features the world's top 24 men's and 16 women's teams and will be played at AT&T Park in San Francisco's Bay Area between July 20 and 22.
Mount Maunganui-based Portia Woodman said the side had been putting a lot of work in ahead of the tournament.
"It's a different kind of environment, we've never been to San Fran. It's going to bring a whole heap of different aspects and challenges just with the knock-out round, but I'm excited and I have absolute belief in the girls."
The knock-out round brings a high-stakes new knock-out format, essentially equalising the playing field and strengthening the importance for teams to bring their A-game right from the beginning of the competition.
Woodman said the change in format shouldn't impact their game plan because bringing the fire from game one should be a habit.
"We've got to take every game as if it's our final, got to put our best out every time, so it's going to be really exciting."
Woodman said the team was packed with talent and every player - new and experienced - knew their job.
Black Ferns Sevens coach Allan Bunting said selecting the squad had been a difficult task.
"It was definitely hard but that's exactly where we want to be. In our trials there was so much motivation, excitement and skill set; we know we have selected the right team.
"We have had a good year, but this group is strict on themselves, we think we have room to improve and those last bits we need to get right are the toughest.
"Our players are incredibly motivated, playing in an amazing stadium and having the chance to leave mana there, to inspire other women, this is another great opportunity for our team."
In naming the squads at Mount Maunganui - the new home of New Zealand sevens high performance - New Zealand Rugby's chief rugby officer, Nigel Cass, said excitement was growing as the tournament approached.
"The All Blacks Sevens and Black Ferns Sevens captured the nation's attention with stunning gold medal wins at the Commonwealth Games, and we look forward to seeing their performances in San Francisco," Cass said.
The Black Ferns Sevens face Mexico in their opening match of the World Cup on July 20, with kick-off at 6.50am, July 21 NZT.
The Black Ferns Sevens team is:
Sarah Goss - captain: Manawatu
Shakira Baker: Waikato
Michaela Blyde: Bay of Plenty
Kelly Brazier: Bay of Plenty
Gayle Broughton: Bay of Plenty
Theresa Fitzpatrick: Auckland
Tyla Nathan-Wong: Auckland
Ruby Tui: Bay of Plenty
Stacey Waaka: Waikato
Niall Williams: Auckland
Tenika Willison: Waikato
Portia Woodman: Counties Manukau
The All Blacks Sevens team is:
Scott Curry - captain: Bay of Plenty
Tim Mikkelson - captain: Waikato
Kurt Baker: Manawatu
Dylan Collier: Waikato
Trael Joass: Tasman
Andrew Knewstubb: Horowhenua Kapiti
Jona Nareki: Otago
Sione Molia: Counties Manukau
Salesi Rayasi: Auckland
Joe Ravouvou: Auckland
Akuila Rokolisoa: Auckland
Regan Ware: Bay of Plenty
Unavailable due to injury: Joe Webber, Amanaki Nicole, Sam Dickson, Etene Nanai-Seturo and Ngarohi McGarvey-Black