The 26 athletes making up the New Zealand men’s and women’s rugby sevens teams for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games were announced in Mt Maunganui today.
For the New Zealand women it will be a Games debut, joining the men’s team who defend a rich history having won four gold medals and one silver at previous Commonwealth Games.
New Zealand Olympic Committee CEO Kereyn Smith congratulated the selected athletes.
“New Zealand Rugby Sevens has an extremely proud history at the Commonwealth Games and on the Gold Coast that history will grow with Women’s Rugby Sevens to be contested for the first time ever at the Games,” said Smith.
“This is fantastic for the team and for the New Zealand public and it’s a great opportunity for these players to inspire the young women of New Zealand and show them what they’re capable of.
“We’re very pleased to have both women’s and men’s sevens being contested on the Gold Coast. It’s a game which captivates New Zealanders and I have no doubt there’ll be a strong contingent of Kiwi supporters there to cheer these athletes on.”
New Zealand Rugby’s Chief Strategy and Operations Manager Nigel Cass said the Commonwealth Games is a pinnacle event on the Sevens calendar.
“Rugby’s involvement in the Commonwealth Games dates back 20 years to Kuala Lumpur and our men have time and time again produced memorable performances.
“The introduction of women’s rugby sevens at the games is a reflection of how the game continues to grow and I believe can also be credited to the great work many of our players are doing as positive ambassadors of the sport.”
The New Zealand Women’s Rugby Sevens team is;
Portia Woodman (Counties Manukau)
Stacey Waaka (Waikato)
Shakira Baker (Waikato)
Sarah Goss (Manawatu)
Ruby Tui (Bay of Plenty)
Theresa Fitzpatrick (Auckland)
Tyla Nathan-Wong (Auckland)
Kat Whata-Simpkins (Wellington)
Kelly Brazier (Bay of Plenty)
Gayle Broughton (Bay of Plenty)
Niall Williams (Auckland)
Michaela Blyde (Bay of Plenty)
Travelling reserve: Tenika Willison (Waikato)
New Zealand women’s rugby sevens coach Allan Bunting said the team is an experienced group, featuring nine players who won silver medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“You can’t beat experience when it comes to a pinnacle event and that was part of what we looked at when selecting the squad; players that understand how exciting and busy an event like this is.
“The Commonwealth Games is second only to the Olympics for us as an opportunity to inspire young women rugby players.
“We are looking forward to stamping our mark as a rugby team and our expressing ourselves on the world stage.”
The women’s team is placed in Pool A alongside Canada, South Africa and Kenya at the Games. The top two placed teams from pool play advance to the semifinals.
Pool play kicks off on Friday 13 April.
The New Zealand Men’s Rugby Sevens team is;
Tim Mikkelson (Waikato)
Scott Curry (Bay of Plenty)
Dylan Collier (Waikato)
Sam Dickson (Canterbury)
Trael Joass (Tasman)
Vilimoni Koroi (Otago)
Andrew Knewstubb (Tasman)
Sione Molia (Counties Manukau)
Kurt Baker (Manawatu)
Joe Webber (Bay of Plenty)
Regan Ware (Bay of Plenty)
Ngarohi McGarvey-Black (Bay of Plenty)
Travelling reserve: Caleb Clarke (Auckland)
New Zealand men’s rugby sevens coach Clark Laidlaw said the squad features five Commonwealth Games medallists alongside exciting young talent.
“Narrowing down this squad to 13 players was tough work. We’ve got a group of really experienced players who know what it takes at events like this and are playing well and then a group of younger guys that want to express themselves.
“The Commonwealth Games is very different for rugby players and something we are really looking forward too. Being part of the wider New Zealand team, the opening ceremony and things like that, we are going to embrace it all.
“What isn’t different is when we put our boots on to train or when we walk into the stadium to play, that is the same and business as usual.”
In 2018 they are set to meet Canada, Kenya and Zambia in Pool C. The men must top their pool to advance to the semifinals.
Pool play kicks off on Saturday 14 April.