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Super 14s double NZ 7s chances

03 Mar 06 05:59
New Zealand's Doug Howlett evades a tackle. 

New Zealand's Doug Howlett evades a tackle.

New Zealand has picked seven Super 14 players, including All Blacks winger Doug Howlett, in its squad for the Commonwealth Games Rugby 7s in Melbourne.

 

New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens was also able to call up former Sevens captain Liam Messam and Sevens regular Onosa'i Tololima-Auva'a after the Waikato Chiefs and Auckland Blues agreed to release an extra player.

 

Super 14 teams had only been obliged to provide one player each to the 12-man roster.

 

“The coaches need to be applauded because they were not required to make two players available,'' said Steve Tew, deputy chief executive of the New Zealand Rugby Union.

 

“Liam was not part of the original wider squad of 22 but the Chiefs were happy to release him after confirmation that they had sustained no further injuries to their squad during their Super 14 games in South Africa and Australia,” he added.

 

The side will be captained by Hawke’s Bay loose forward Tafai Ioasa, who has led the team since the IRB Sevens tournament in Dubai last December.

 

The squad of 12 includes five players - Blackie, Ellison, Ioasa, Latimer and Messam - who were at the 2005 IRB Rugby Sevens World Cup in Hong Kong.

 

It also includes three - Cory Jane, Lote Raikabula and Onosa’i Tololima-Auva’a - who made their New Zealand Sevens debut at the 2006 International Sevens in Wellington.

 

New Zealand is seeded first in the tournament in Melbourne, but they are experiencing one of their worst seasons on record, with current form leaving them ranked fourth in the IRB Sevens competition. They sit behind South Africa, England and Fiji, all three of whom will stand in the way of a continuation of their unbeaten streak in Commonwealth Rugby 7s competition.

 

England has named a strong squad for Melbourne, while Fiji is still in the process of narrowing down a team to try and better their silver medals in Kuala Lumpur and Manchester. South Africa will seek to improve on its Manchester bronze.

 

Australia is also ranked as an outside chance, making use of its home-ground advantage and the naming of Wallabies Lote Tuqiri, Matt Giteau, Scott Fava and Chris Latham in the squad.

 

New Zealand’s strongest early round challenge is likely to come from Wales, who are in good form after a victory over England last weekend.

 

The tight Rugby 7s field, which includes 10 of the world’s top 15 teams, will see four thrilling sessions of high speed action contested at Telstra Dome on 16 and 17 March.

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