Black Ferns 7s seek consistency...and another Cup winSave
By Campbell Burnes
More of the same will be the call for the Black Ferns Sevens as they seek another Cup victory in the Japanese city of Kitakyushu this weekend.
Last month in Las Vegas, New Zealand crushed their Australian rivals, the Rio Olympic gold medallists, 28-5 in the final to take a six-point lead with three tournaments left to play in the 2016-17 World Series.
They have made just one change from that squad, with Rebekah Cordero-Tufuga replacing Terina Te Tamaki. Lyric Faleafaga of St Mary's College in Wellington comes into the squad for the first time as a travelling reserve, but the 17-year-old will not miss any of the school term as we are in the midst of holidays.
"This is about Lyric's development plan, she's young, has special talent and, at 1.8m tall, has real height. We're really excited about her future, so it's all about giving her experience in the international tournament environment and personal growth for her," says coach Allan Bunting.
He says that keeping the core of the series-leading squad together was important while also creating opportunities for up-and-coming talent.
"We're still focused on consistency and continuity, so we've kept most of the squad from Las Vegas. We've brought in a couple of new players and Rebekah comes back after missing out the last couple of tournaments. She's had a couple of work-ons this series and has worked really hard at her game and is making good progress, so has been rewarded with selection."
All the players should be fully healed from the cuts and abrasions that affected their arms and legs from the coarse Las Vegas surface, which caused an outcry. Michaela Blyde, in particular, scored seven tries in that event but was heavily strapped throughout.
New Zealand have based themselves in Japan for a week, so should be well acclimatised.
In their pool this weekend, New Zealand will face hosts Japan, who are not a core World Series team, seventh placed France and fifth placed Russia, so one should not envisage many problems for them to emerge unscathed from day one. Winning Pool A would put them in a quarter-final against possibly Canada or USA.
"We always get a tough pool. Russia and France are tough teams that show a lot of passion, so it should be a great first day," says Black Ferns Sevens skipper Sarah Goss.
This is the first time Japan has hosted an event on the Women's World Series.
Pool games tomorrow:
3.20pm NZT v Japan
6.05pm NZT v France
8.48pm NZT v Russia
Black Ferns Sevens squad: Sarah Goss (c), Michaela Blyde, Kelly Brazier, Rebekah Cordero-Tufuga, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Tyla Nathan-Wong, Cheyelle Robins-Reti, Alena Saili, Ruby Tui, Kat Whata-Simpkins, Niall Williams, Portia Woodman
Travelling reserves: Lyric Faleafaga, Tenika Willison
- Rugby World Cup