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Paris 2024: Nine Olympic Debutants In Rugby Sevens Teams

Olympic experience and youthful excitement bookend the two New Zealand Rugby Sevens teams named for the Paris Olympics next month.

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

The New Zealand Men’s Rugby Sevens team is;

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

Travelling reserves: Sione Molia*, Joe Webber, Tim Mikkelson.

Scott Curry and Regan Ware are in line for their third Olympic Games, and alongside Dylan Collier are 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.”

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The New Zealand Women’s Rugby Sevens team is;

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

Traveling reserves: Tyhsa Ikenasio, Tenika Willison, Kelsey Teneti.

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

Head Coach Cory Sweeney said it is 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 are 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.”

NZOC CEO Nicki Nicol extended hercongratulationsto the athletes.

“We’re thrilled to have two really exciting and experienced rugby sevens teams named for the Paris Olympics,” said Nicol.

“We have a proud history in sevens at the Olympics and we look forward to watching these teams add to that legacy in just over a month's-time in Paris.”

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

Cody Vai, Sam Dickson, Amanaki Nicole*, Lewis Ormond, Che Clark, Xavier Tito - Harris, Jayden Keelan, Etene Nanai - Seturo and Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens have been selected as non-travelling reserves for the men's team.

Kelly Brazier, Terina Te Tamaki, Dhys Faleafaga and Justine McGregor have been selected as non-travelling reserves for the women's team.

*Subject to meeting conditions set by NZR and NZOC by 1 July 2024
**Subject to meeting conditions set by the NZR and NZOC by 2 July 2024

Athlete Bios:

Men's Team:

Akuila Rokolisoa

Akuila Rokolisoa has developed into one of the biggest attacking threats in the international sevens game.
Turning heads playing for Counties Manukau at the 2018 National Sevens he made his All Blacks Sevens debut in Hong Kong in 2018.

Just a week later he was called into the Commonwealth Games squad as injury cover claiming a gold medal with the side.

Rokolisoa played a starring role in the series-winning team in 2023, becoming just the sixth player in the history of the game to score more than 400 points in one season. He won the New Zealand men’s Sevens player of the year award and was a finalist for the World Rugby Sevens player of the year.

Before joining the Sevens squad full time, Rokolisoa was an electrician.

Andrew Knewstubb

A player of the tournament performance at the National Sevens in 2017 saw Andrew Knewstubb catch the attention of national selectors. The young landscaper from Tasman was brought into the Sevens camp and went on to play at eight of the ten tournaments that year.

Knewstubb was part of the Sevens team to win Commonwealth Games gold and Sevens World Cup in 2018 as well as silver at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

An ACL injury has seen Knewstubb sidelined for almost two years as he fought back through several complications to gain selection for Paris 2024.

Brady Rush

Northland’s Brady Rush is the second generation international sevens player, following in the footsteps of his father, former captain Eric Rush.

Rush has played NPC for Northland and in the 2020 Ignite7 he turned heads with his fast footwork and intuitive play and was offered a contract with the Sevens for 2021.

Rush was a key member of the squad that won the 2023 World Series.

Dylan Collier

The rangy Waikato forward cemented his place in the Sevens team after making his debut in Wellington in 2015.
A tall, ball-winning forward, Collier has deceptive speed and great offloading skills that see him ideal for the seven-man game. Collier was also part of the side that brought home silver at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

He was named captain of the squad in 2024.

Leroy Carter

Born and raised in Tauranga, Leroy Carter is a familiar name in rugby circles.

He played NPC for Bay of Plenty and was a member of the New Zealand Under 20 team in 2019. Carter was named MVP at the Condor Sevens in 2017 and was part of all of the Sevens domestic tournaments in 2021, coming into the squad as a training partner.

Carter starred in the Sevens 2023 championship-winning season, his deceptive pace, aggression and game awareness saw him nominated for World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year.

Moses Leo

Moses Leo was contracted to the Sevens at the start of 2021.

The former Westlake Boys’ High School student has spent several years on the sideline with a number of injuries but returned to the field in 2020.

Leo was a member of the North Harbour Mitre 10 Cup wider squad and was selected for the Ignite7 tournament in December. Leo starred in the winning Bolt side and was named Players’ Player of the Tournament.

He made his Sevens debut in Singapore 2022.

Ngarohi McGarvey-Black

Ngarohi McGarvey-Black made his Sevens debut in Las Vegas in 2018.

McGarvey-Black is a versatile backline player with a quick turn of pace and good eye for the game.

He was named Player of the Final in Cape Town 2019 and Hamilton 2020 and was voted Players’ Player of the Year at the NZRPA awards that season. He was part of the side that brought home silver at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Regan Ware

Ware burst onto the sevens scene in 2015 and impressed so much in his first season, he was nominated for World Rugby’s Rookie of the Year award.

Ware hails from Tokoroa and displays the speed on attack and strength on defence that is essential in the fast-paced world of sevens.

A member of the 2018 Commonwealth Games and World Cup winning Sevens teams, Ware scored a crucial try in the Gold medal final against Fiji to claim Commonwealth gold. He was also part of the side that brought home silver at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Games.

Scott Curry

Scott Curry made his debut for the Sevens in Dubai in 2010 and has been a key feature of the side ever since.

He took over captaincy from DJ Forbes in 2015 and the same year he was named New Zealand Sevens Player of the Year, an accolade he won again in 2021.

Alongside Tim Mikkelson, Curry co-captained the Sevens to a Rugby World Cup Sevens title in 2018 and a Commonwealth Games gold.

He became the fifth All Blacks Sevens player to play 50 tournaments in the black jersey in 2019.

A natural athlete, Curry is known for is work rate and relentless nature on the field.

Tone Ng Shiu

Tone Ng Shiu gained selection into the Sevens team after a strong showing for Tasman at the 2017 National Sevens and debuted only weeks later at the Wellington Sevens.

The powerful forward is a solid defender and strong with ball in hand and has developed into one of the premier forwards in the game.

In the 2018/2019 season, Ng Shiu was one of only three players that took the field in every match (60) and he was named the New Zealand Rugby Sevens player of the year. Ng Shiu was part of the side that brought home silver at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Fehi Fineanganofo

Out of Auckland Grammar, Fehi Fineanganofo fought past several injury setbacks before finding his place in the Sevens team.

Fineanganofo was a star of schoolboy rugby, selected for the New Zealand Schools team in 2020. In 2021, he joined the Sevens for one of their Olympic preparation tournaments, but injury delayed his inclusion in the full squad.

He made his debut in Los Angeles 2023, signed a full time contract with the team for the 2024 season and has become a key forward in the squad, gaining selection for his first Olympics Games.

Tepaea Cook-Savage

Brought into the Sevens squad in 2022, Cook-Savage made his debut in the black jersey in Cape Town.
Impressing in the Bunnings NPC for Waikato, Cook-Savage is an electric player with clever footwork and an eye for the gap.

Cook-Savage has been selected for his first pinnacle event.

Women's Team:

Alena Saili

Alena Saili joined the Sevens team in her first year out of Southland Girls' High School and made her debut in Sydney at only 19-years-old.

Saili is a powerful ball runner was strong footwork on attack and accuracy on defence. She is a regular selection in the Sevens set up.

Adept at both forms of the game, Saili debuted for the Black Ferns in 2018 and has five international caps in the XVs game. She was part of the team that won Gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Jazmin Felix-Hotham

Another high school star, Jazmin Hotham made her international debut in the victory at the Sydney Sevens in 2020.

Covid lockdowns meant it was almost two years before she got another taste World Series Sevens and she has gone on to become a regular in the Sevens team.

Hotham has impressed on the sevens field since start in Year 10, and in 2017, helped guide her Hamilton Girls' seven team to a National title before starring in the New Zealand Under 17 team that won the World School Sevens.

Jorja Miller

It was a matter of when not if Jorja Miller graduated to the New Zealand Sevens team, the Christchurch teen has proven ability beyond her years as she progressed through school.

Miller was a standout for Christchurch Girls High School at several editions of Condor Sevens, played for the Canterbury FPC team and was the MVP at Ignite7 in 2020.

She made her Sevens debut at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2022, and went on to win World Rugby’s Rookie of the year in her first season.

Mahina Paul

A talented netball and touch player, Paul represented New Zealand at the Under 18 touch World Championships and the Youth Olympic Games for Sevens in 2018.

Originally from Whakatane, Paul joined the Black Ferns Sevens team in 2019 after impressive performances at the Ignite7s and National Sevens.

She made her New Zealand Sevens debut in Cape Town and scored a crucial try in extra time of the quarter final against England. Her older sister, Mererangi, plays for the Black Ferns.

Michaela Blyde

The Taranaki speedster developed her pace on the athletics track before following in her mother’s footsteps and taking up rugby for her provincial union.

A former New Plymouth Girl's High School student, Blyde made her first appearance in the black jersey at the Oceania Sevens in Noosa while still at school.

Blyde had a breakthrough season in 2016/17, as top try and point scorer in the World Series, named DHL Impact Player of the Series and picked up the World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year award.

She became the first female player to win back-to-back World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year titles when claiming the award in 2018 and she was part of the Olympic Gold medal-winning side at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Portia Woodman-Wickliffe

Portia Woodman-Wickliffe is one of the most recognisable players in rugby, as the leading try scorer on World Series.

Woodman has been recognised on the global stage with the 2015 World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year Award and in 2017, was named World Rugby Women's Player of the Year. In 2020, she was named as the top women’s sevens player of the decade.

In XVs, Woodman-Wickliffe was part of the World Cup winning Black Ferns in 2017 and 2022, and holds the record for most tries in a Farah Palmer Cup match, crossing for six tries against Taranaki for Northland in 2020. She was part of the team that won Gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Her father, Kawhena, and uncle, Fred, both played for the All Blacks in the 1980s.

In 2022, she scored her 200th try on the World Sevens Series, a history-making feat.

Risi Pouri-Lane

Risi Pouri-Lane graduated from the New Zealand Women's Development team into the Black Ferns Sevens in 2018.

The former touch and judo representative hails from Motueka where she started playing rugby as 10-year-old.

In 2018, Pouri-Lane was called into the Sevens squad for the Commonwealth Games and sat on the bench during the dramatic gold medal match. Months later she captained the New Zealand Youth Olympic team to a gold medal in Buenos Aires. She was part of the Olympic Gold medal-winning side at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Sarah Hirini

Sarah Hirini is one of the leading sevens players in the world.

The current New Zealand Sevens captain has an impressive list of accolades to her name including Sevens World Champion in 2013 and 2018, Olympic silver and gold medallist, Commonwealth Games gold and bronze medallist and seven-time World Series winner. Hirini’s game is characterised by her tireless work-ethic and dogged defence.

In 2019, she became the first female player to bring up 200 matches on the World Series.

Hirini is one of several international rugby players who went to Feilding High School, and she has proudly won five National Sevens titles with Manawatū.

Outside of sevens, Hirini was a member of the 2017 and 2022 Black Ferns that won the Rugby World Cup, she was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2019 and became the first woman to be awarded the prestigious Tom French Memorial Māori Player of the Year. She also became the second female to win the Kelvin R Tremain Rugby Player of the Year award in 2021.

Stacey Waaka

Stacey Waaka is a fast, evasive back that excels in both sevens and 15s.

She was first selected in the New Zealand Sevens team in 2016, and in 2017 won the World Cup with the Black Ferns. A natural athlete, Waaka has also represented New Zealand in touch rugby and at provincial level in netball, hockey and athletics.

Waaka had a star season for the Sevens team in 2019/2020, finishing as the World Series top try scorer and claiming the DHL Impact Player of the season. She went onto win Gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Theresa Setefano

Theresa Setefano is a powerful ball carrier with explosive speed off the mark.

After joining the Auckland Sevens programme in 2013, Setefano made her New Zealand Sevens debut in 2016 at the Atlanta Sevens. She took time off from her medical studies to give sevens her best shot and it paid off with selection for Rio and a historic silver medal at the Olympic Games.

A regular selection in the Black Ferns Sevens, Setefano has the ability to play a number of positions and was a member of the Gold medal winning Commonwealth Games team, the Rugby World Cup Sevens champion side and the Gold medal winning side at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

She has won two XVs World Cups with the Black Ferns.

Manaia Nuku

Manaia Nuku joined the Black Ferns Sevens squad in 2021, in her first year out of high school. An impressive 2020 saw Nuku make her Farah Palmer Cup debut for Waikato and captain the New Zealand Condor Schools sevens team.

Nuku made her debut in December 2022 and has become a regular selection ever since. This will be her first Olympic Games.

Tyla King

Playmaker and sweep Tyla King is a natural athlete.

The former Linfield High School student made her debut as an 18-year-old in 2012. She was a key member of the team that lifted the sevens World Cup a year later.

The most capped New Zealand Women’s Sevens player, King captained the team during the 2017 season and was the second female to score 1000 points World Series.

She has two World Cups, an Olympic silver and gold medal, Commonwealth Games gold medal and seven World Series titles to her name.

King was named New Zealand Rugby Sevens Player of the Year in 2019 and World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year in 2023.

About The New Zealand Team for Paris 2024

In July and August 2024, New Zealand will take on the world at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. Around 180 New Zealand Team athletes will compete at the Games, with the stunning city of Paris set to host 10,500 athletes from 206 nations.

With competition taking place at the Palace of Versaille, beneath the Eiffel Tower, inside Stade de France, and around landmarks such as Les Invalides, Place de la Concorde, Hotel de Ville and along the Seine, the Games are expected to be a spectacular event.

The Zealand Team is once again set to shine in sports from equestrian, to rowing, rugby sevens,
swimming, canoe sprint, sailing, athletics, cycling and more, while New Zealanders can check out the action in incredible new urban sports including skateboarding, sport climbing, breaking and 3x3 basketball.

© Scoop Media

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