Black Ferns: Sevens players set to be available after Olympics

Black Ferns coach Allan Bunting confirmed on Monday that a number of Olympic-bound Sevens players will be available for selection after the Games have finished.

No names were confirmed, but it is highly likely that Portia Woodman-Wickliffe, Stacey Waaka and Sarah Hirini will be top of the list for a massive match at Twickenham against England.

“I think for them they want to go away and do well there,” Bunting said in regard to the Sevens side’s upcoming Olympic campaign.

“They’ll probably need a rest too … it’s a pretty emotionally intense build in for them, so hopefully they go really well and we’ll catch up with them when they get back.”

The women’s Olympic Sevens tournament finishes on 27 July, with the New Zealand side favourites to win gold for a second consecutive Olympic Games. There is a six-week gap between then and the Black Ferns’ test at Twickenham, but Bunting was not concerned about the players being able to adjust to the 15-player code.

“We’ve seen it with a few of them already, they’ve played in a few World Cups, but there’s a few young ones that haven’t played much 15s. We’ll get to that when it comes. There’s pressure, they’ve been professional for a long time (the Black Ferns Sevens), they’ve proved themselves with their ability to play under pressure. It’s exciting that they’ll come back, but our ladies are training well so they’ll make it hard for them to get in the team.”

One of the areas that would likely change due to the availability of Woodman-Wickliffe and other Sevens players is the outside backs, but in-form winger Katelyn Vaha’akolo sees the prospect of them joining the team as “exciting”.

“They’re a very skilled team … I think it’s always really healthy having competition too. We obviously know they’re the best in the world, I would love to play with Portia. I also think you should never be satisfied, a lot of people think they’ve got their position set but I feel like you need to earn your jersey. You might be the best in the world but you still need to earn your right to play,” Vaha’akolo said.

Katelyn Vahaakolo of New Zealand celebrates her stunning try
for New Zealand against the Walloroos in the Pacific Four Series and Laurie O’Reily Cup match at North Harbour Stadium.

The Black Ferns travel to Brisbane this weekend for a test match against the Wallaroos, who they beat 67-19 when they last played. That match, in May at North Harbour Stadium, was almost certainly the most complete performance of Bunting’s tenure as coach, however he is wary of an Australian side in rebuild mode.

“They have new coaches and it takes a while to implement change, but I think we’ll see a different team,” Bunting said.

“We just have to play our style, we’ve got some pretty impressive stuff when we get it right.”

The Black Fern and Wallaroos meet at Ballymore Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday, with the game kicking off at 4pm NZT. It is a big day for New Zealand teams, with the All Blacks and Māori All Blacks playing consecutively afterwards.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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