Veteran All Blacks Sevens stars DJ Forbes and Tim Mikkelson return to strengthen the team for rounds six and seven of the HSBC Sevens World Series in Hong Kong (27-29 March) and Tokyo (4,5 April). The team is:
DJ Forbes (C)
* New cap
The team features two new caps. 2015/16 squad member Jordan Bunce, son of All Blacks legend Frank Bunce, will pull on the black jersey for the first time. Taranaki sevens player Lewis Ormond will also make his debut after the 20 year old impressed coach Gordon Tietjens at the National Sevens and during this week’s training camp in Mt Maunganui. Forbes returns to the side having injured his foot in Wellington and Mikkelson returns having missed Wellington and Las Vegas with a groin strain.
Tietjens said: ‘It’s great to have DJ and Timmy back in the mix especially for the big games. With two newcomers in the team, having their experience to assist Jordan and Lewis in their first outing is of huge benefit. Jordan worked hard this week. He’s great on attack and has worked on his defence so gets his reward. He’s an exciting player for someone so young and certainly has a future in the game. To grow him as a sevens player in Hong Kong is a huge opportunity for us. Lewis scored some great tries this week and really stood out. He’s only been playing three years and as an ex-basketballer he offers lots of height which is good in terms of contesting ball in the air. He’s a forward in sevens, a centre in fifteens so brings a great set of skills to the game.’ With Ioane, Waaka and Collier again in the team having made their debut in Wellington in February, the side now consists of five young players with just two tournaments between them. Tietjens said: ‘There’s a lot of youth in the side, but there’re some very experienced players going to Hong Kong and that’s the key to our overall performance so we’re very comfortable bringing those younger players in.’
With wins this year in Wellington and a second place finish in Las Vegas, the All Blacks Sevens currently lie second in the World Series five points behind South Africa and two ahead of Fiji. They will be looking to cement their place in the top four with four tournaments to go. A top four season finish secures automatic qualification for the Rio Olympics. The team won in Hong Kong last year and finished fourth in Tokyo.
Tietjens said: ‘It’s important we start well against Scotland on the first day, then Portugal and Australia on day two. It’s a tough pool, but I believe we have the players to compete well.’ Gillies Kaka was ruled out of selection after breaking his hand at the USA Sevens. Also not considered due to injury were Sam Vaka, Josh Gordon and Fa’asiu Fuatai.
The team departs for Hong Kong on Sunday evening.
Hong Kong Sevens schedule:
Friday 27 March
Saturday 28 March
Sunday 29 March