New Zealand unveil squad for Oceania Sevens
New Zealand Women’s Sevens coach Sean Horan has unveiled his first squad on the road to which he hopes will end in Olympic gold at Rio 2016, the first stop being the Oceania Women’s Sevens Championship in Fiji on 3-4 August.
More than 1,000 women and girls registered with the Go4Gold recruitment programme – many of them new the Game – with 14 talent identification camps taking place across the country before a selection were invited to training camps to develop their potential.
The key focus for Horan has been building a foundation to realise the Olympic dream, meaning New Zealand have not featured in the three IRB Women’s Sevens Challenge Cup events over the last nine months unlike the other leading nations.
Horan’s squad has some familiar names in it, including captain Huriana Manuel and Linda Itunu who played in New Zealand’s 15-10 sudden-death extra-time loss to Australia in the first Women’s Rugby World Cup Sevens final in Dubai in March 2009.
Manuel and Itunu, along with Kendra Cocksedge, were also part of the Black Ferns side which secured a fourth successive Women’s Rugby World Cup crown in 2010, while Shakira Baker and Hazel Tubic played in New Zealand’s three-match series with England last year.
The 12-strong squad for the Oceania Women’s Sevens – which is part of the qualification process for RWC Sevens 2013 in Moscow – also features two netballers, including Kayla McAlister, the sister of former All Black Luke McAlister.
“This is a very exciting time and the women are particularly excited that they will wear the black jersey and represent New Zealand,” admitted Horan.
“These women have been chosen from a wider development group of about 50. We thought it was important to have a mix of experienced players and young emerging talent to ensure we can build a successful team.”
New Zealand have already qualified for RWC Sevens 2013 by virtue of their runners-up finish in Dubai, but will face hosts Fiji, the Cook Islands and Tonga in Pool B at the Oceania Sevens. The other pool features Australia, Samoa, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
The best placed team after Australia and New Zealand will play in the Asian regional qualifying tournament in Pune, India, in October, from which three teams will qualify for RWC Sevens 2013 at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow from 28-30 June.
New Zealand Women’s sevens squad for Oceania Sevens Championship:
Shakira Baker (Wellington), Kendra Cocksedge (Canterbury), Moana Forbes (Tasman), Sarah Goss (Manawatu), Charlene Halapua (Auckland), Linda Itunu (Auckland), Huriana Manuel (Auckland – captain), Kayla McAlister (Auckland), Tyla Nathan-Wong (Auckland), Hazel Tubic (Counties Manukau), Ruby Tui (Canterbury), Portia Woodman (Auckland).
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