FORMER New Zealand sevens international Orene Ai’i brings a wealth of experience to the team after scoring over 600 points during a six-year international career – and lifting the World Sevens Player of the Year trophy in 2005.But the former Super Rugby star, who has featured for the Blues and the Hurricanes, will be complemented by a host of youngsters set to showcase their talent to the world for the first time.
The 12-man Blues squad includes senior All Black sevens stars Rocky Khan and Tutu Taira, Samoan under-20 stars Melani Vai, 19, and Fomai Ah Ki, 19, and 17-year-old schoolboy from Auckland Grammar Akira Iaone.
And Sotutu is confident that his less experienced stars will step up to the plate when competition gets underway at Twickenham on August 17.
“Most of the squad have been together for the last few years but we brought in a lot of new blood at the end of last year to add to the more experienced boys,” he said.
“The young boys love the game of sevens and they definitely have some talent and hopefully they can show that up there.
“Melani Vai and Fomai Ah Ki are both excellent backs. They have been in the squad for a while and they looked good in the tournaments they have played so far.
“Kali Hala doesn’t look like much if you just look at him but he’s impressive once you put the ball in his hands.
“And Akira Iaone is still in school but he is one of the quickest in the team. He’s got great skills and has a big step on him and he’s got a big future.
“Orene Ai’i has played a few tournaments before and is very well respected in the team. He is a great leader on and off the pitch.”
With sevens set to feature at the Olympics in 2016 Sotutu believes some of his promising young players could well be chasing gold in Rio.
But he insists he has his men fully focused on impressing at the World Club 7s in London first.
“Definitely with sevens being on the big stage at the Olympics it’s great and there’s now a chance of getting a gold medal,” he added.
“It’s not just about New Zealand. A few of the guys have played for Samoa under-20’s as well. I’m sure their countries will be looking at them.
“We just want to make sure we can take the best team possible and do the best that we can.”