The All Blacks Sevens' quest for Olympic gold in Tokyo next year has been given a major boost, with four Super Rugby players set to join the 2019/2020 campaign.
New Zealand Rugby announced that Caleb Clarke (Blues), Etene Nanai-Seturo (Chiefs), Salesi Rayasi (Hurricanes) and Scott Gregory (Highlanders) will shift into the All Blacks Sevens campaign with their sights focussed on the Tokyo Olympic Games.
With the support of their Super Rugby teams, the players have been given the green light to move into the sevens programme, said NZ Rugby head of high performance Mike Anthony.
"We're delighted that these players – who have all been in the All Blacks Sevens environment previously – have put up their hand, and want to have a crack at making the Olympic squad.
"We have worked very closely with all the Super clubs to ensure we could support those players who were genuinely keen to be involved in the Tokyo Olympic Games. We also wanted to ensure that the Super clubs were not significantly disadvantaged.
"Our first step was to gauge individual player interest, and then All Blacks Sevens management presented to those players before a firm commitment was sought.
"The four players selected have all previously played for the All Blacks Sevens which speaks volumes to the culture that (coach) Clark Laidlaw and his team have really built within that environment. It's been a key focus of the management to offer young players world class rugby experience so to have these four put their hand up to return is a great result."
Clarke, Nanai-Seturo and Rayasi will join the All Blacks Sevens squad after their Mitre 10 Cup commitments at the end of this year while Gregory will assemble with the Highlanders until March 2020.
"One of the biggest considerations in this process has been the team environment. We have a group of contracted players that have won the Commonwealth Games Gold and Rugby World Cup Sevens last year, so we're very mindful that those coming in need to complement that group," Anthony said.
Rayasi was a member of the World Cup winning All Blacks Sevens team in 2018 while Nanai-Seturo won Commonwealth Games gold with the team last April.
"We think we have the right mix of players that are coming in – size, speed and power, they will be a great addition to the All Blacks Sevens programme," Anthony added.
The Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes, and Highlanders are free to recruit an additional player to their 2020 squads. The Crusaders are the only team to not have representation in the wider sevens squad.