The All Blacks Sevens will go into the new season with the services of All Blacks Sonny Bill Williams and Liam Messam and exciting young loose forwards Ardie Savea and Akira Ioane.
The four, along with Auckland’s Ben Lam, are new faces in the squad from last season. Ioane, Lam, Messam and Savea, have previously pulled on the sevens jersey.
A core of Sevens specialists from the 2014/15 season were also named in the initial training squad for 2015/16 announced by coach Gordon Tietjens.
Scott Curry, a regular member in recent seasons, will captain the side following the decision of long serving leader DJ Forbes to step down from the role to focus on his Sevens game.
Of the new members in the squad, Messam and Williams will be available for all Sevens World Series tournaments and will not play Super Rugby in 2016.
Tietjens said he was very excited to have Williams and Messam commit to Sevens.
“We know what Liam can do and he will certainly give us some new options up front," he told allblacks.com
"He's a hugely experienced Sevens player having won two Commonwealth Games gold medals and been part of Sevens World Series winning New Zealand teams.
“Sonny Bill Williams is a great athlete and has shown he can adapt very easily to the demands of rugby. I see him adjusting very well to the fast pace of Sevens.
"He’ll be a great attacking weapon with his speed, strength and uncanny ability to offload.
“We’re really pleased he’s committed to the full season. He knows competition for places will be intense so he’s giving himself the best chance of making the team for Rio.”
Other Super Rugby players selected will be available for the Wellington and Sydney tournaments. They will then return to their Super Rugby teams through to Week 10 and be available for the remaining two tournaments of the World Series in Paris and London.
Tietjens also expressed his delight that Curry had accepted the new role.
“He has big shoes to fill as DJ has been an outstanding leader," he added.
"We’ve always been impressed with Scott’s maturity on and off the field. He led the team well last season in Las Vegas when DJ was injured and is well equipped to handle the demands of the job. He’s a great player, experienced and very skilled.”
“Scott will be leading a core of very experienced players who have served the team well in recent seasons. It’s also really pleasing to have some recent All Blacks Sevens players on board again. Akira Ioane, Ben Lam and Ardie Savea made big impacts in their time with the team and we welcome them back.”
Ioane played in 2014 before a standout year with the Blues this year. Lam was a member of the World Series winning 2012/13 side and Savea turned out for six tournaments in 2012.
Curry said he was honoured to be named as captain.
“It’s a big year ahead for sevens so to be captain at this time is a huge thrill," explained the 27-year-old.
"I’ve learnt a lot about leadership from DJ and I know I’ll be drawing on his knowledge in the season ahead. We have really important goals over the next year and I’ll be working hard to help the team be in the best possible shape to succeed.”
Tietjens said the initial training squad will form the basis of the teams to be selected for the new season. More players would be added later this year.
New Zealand Sevens squad:
Dylan Collier (Waikato), Scott Curry (Bay of Plenty), Sam Dickson (Canterbury), DJ Forbes (Counties Manukau), Gillies Kaka (Hawke’s Bay), Akira Ioane (Auckland), Rieko Ioane (Auckland), Ben Lam (Auckland), Liam Messam (Waikato), Tim Mikkelson (Waikato), Ardie Savea (Wellington), Sherwin Stowers (Counties Manukau), Sam Vaka (Counties Manukau), Beaudein Waaka (Taranaki), Joe Webber (Waikato), Sonny Bill Williams (Counties Manukau).