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Olympic sevens teams aim for medals in Paris

Sarah Hirini Black Ferns Sevens rugby
Sarah Hirini returns to the Black Ferns sevens for her third Olympics as the New Zealand sevens teams are named PHOTO: SIMON WATTS/DAVE LINTOTT PHOTOGRAPHY

The New Zealand rugby sevens teams want to get back on the podium at the Paris Olympics next month with a mix of familiar and new players too.

Nine players will become Olympians for the first time, while 15 are returning with their sights set on another medal-winning performance.


Headlining the women's team is the remarkable comeback of Sarah Hirini, recovering from an ACL injury sustained in December last year.

Coach Cory Sweeney said it was a special moment for Hirini, named for her third Olympic Games.

"We sat down six months ago and knew that it was achievable, but it would be tight. It's been pretty unbelievable seeing how hard Gossy has worked to get back and we will really ramp up her involvement over the next six weeks."

Hirini, along with Portia Woodman-Wickliffe, Theresa Setefano and Tyla King were all set for their third Olympic Games, while four players (Jazmin Felix-Hotham, Manaia Nuku, Mahina Paul and Jorja Miller) head to their first.

"Every Olympic cycle has its theme, and this time round we want to stamp our mark on history.

We have players who have been here for 12 years and its highly likely it might be their last tournament. On the other end, we have some players living out a childhood dream being named for the first time, so we need to channel those emotions."

For the All Blacks Sevens, Scott Curry and Regan Ware were in line for their third Olympic Games, and alongside Dylan Collier were among the most experienced players in the team.

Six players return from the Tokyo campaign where the team won a silver medal, while Leroy Carter, Tepaea Cook-Savage, Fehi Fineanganofo, Moses Leo, Akuila Rokolisoa and Brady Rush all head to their first Olympics Games.

"Selections are always tough; we have had to make a lot of big calls throughout the year already which created healthy competition within the squad and has made our job really hard as coaches," said head coach Tomasi Cama.

"We have a few players that haven't been to an Olympic Games before, and we want to take that energy to enjoy the occasion. Instead of taking the hurt of the last one, we need to be excited about the opportunity to be the first men's sevens team to win a gold for New Zealand."

The Black Ferns won sevens gold in Tokyo, while the All Blacks claimed a silver medal.

Both teams depart for France in early-July for a training camp before heading to Paris. The men's competition kicks-off the Olympics on July 24, two days before the Opening Ceremony, with the women taking the field from July 28.


Leroy Carter, Dylan Collier, Tepaea Cook-Savage, Scott Curry, Fehi Fineanganofo, Andrew Knewstubb, Moses Leo, Ngarohi McGarvey-Black, Tone Ng Shiu, Akuila Rokolisoa, Brady Rush, Regan Ware


Michaela Blyde, Jazmin Felix-Hotham, Sarah Hirini, Tyla King, Jorja Miller, Manaia Nuku, Mahina Paul, Risaleeana Pouri-Lane, Alena Saili, Theresa Setefano, Stacey Waaka, Portia Woodman-Wickliffe


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