All Blacks Sevens coach Gordon Tietjens has named a squad of 14 players for the first two tournaments of the 2015/16 Sevens World Series in Dubai and Cape Town.
Sonny Bill Williams, Liam Messam, Akira Ioane and Ardie Savea have not been included. The team departs for Dubai on Sunday.
Tietjens said the thinking behind taking 14 players was to provide further incentive for all players to push for places in the final 12. He will follow the same format all season.
He revealed: “It’s for all those players to put pressure on others at training. Knowing you’re not in the starting 12 you can get complacent and lose focus. I want pressure put on every individual in all the teams we name throughout the year.
“For training it’s great to have two teams of sevens up against each which again creates more competition.”
All Blacks and Chiefs half-back Augustine Pulu is set for a possible debut. Tietjens has been impressed with how quickly he has adapted to sevens having not played the shortened game before.
“He’s a fine rugby player. He’s come on in leaps and bounds in the time he has been with us. The improvement has been immense this week. This is a great opportunity for him to put his hand up to have a crack at other teams this season," he said.
“He’s got very good vision. He’s quick off the mark. He’s quick to spot a gap. He’s going to keep teams honest and he’s very strong and physical.”
He had high praise for Waikato speedster Regan Ware as well. “He’s the quickest player in the team. He’s a great defender and attacker. It’s important we have a player like Regan out wide who can score tries from out of nothing, beating a man one-on-one so he’s a good player to have in the squad.”
Dubai has not been a happy hunting ground for the All Blacks Sevens in recent years, but Tietjens said the team was determined to start this critical new season well.
Tietjens added: “I have set a goal for this team; let’s go and win Dubai. Let’s give it our best shot. We may or may not win, but I’d like to think we come out of this tournament with distinction, that we are on the improve. We have prepared well. We have planned well. Now we have to perform. An injury free side, no excuses really, and ready to perform.”
New Zealand Sevens squad: Dylan Collier (Waikato), Scott Curry (Bay of Plenty, captain), Sam Dickson (Canterbury), DJ Forbes (Counties Manukau), Tim Mikkelson (Waikato), Declan O’Donnell (Waikato), Lewis Ormond (Taranaki), Augustine Pulu (Counties Manukau), Teddy Stanaway (Bay of Plenty), Sherwin Stowers (Counties Manukau), Isaac Te Tamaki (Waikato), Beaudein Waaka (Taranaki), Regan Ware (Waikato), Joe Webber (Waikato)