Both teams travel to USA this weekend as defending World Cup champions with a high-stakes new knock-out format effectively equalising the playing field for the 24 countries in the men’s tournament, and 16 national unions in the women’s field.
In naming the squads at the new home of New Zealand Sevens high performance – Mt Maunganui – on Tuesday, New Zealand Rugby’s Chief Rugby Officer Nigel Cass said excitement was growing as the tournament approached.
“The All Blacks Sevens and Black Ferns Sevens captured the nation’s attention with stunning gold medal wins at the Commonwealth Games and we look forward to seeing their performances in San Francisco,” he said.
“Rugby is growing as a global sport, and to play a World Cup tournament in San Francisco opens up a whole new audience, so we know there will be a lot of interest in this tournament.
“We wish the teams, and coaches Clark Laidlaw and Allan Bunting, the very best of luck for their campaigns, and we look forward to them doing us proud and continuing to inspire the next generation of sevens stars.”
All Blacks Sevens coach Clark Laidlaw said the unique nature of the knockout competition contributed to it being a difficult squad to select.
“Getting the balance of the squad right was the main thing,” he explained.
“It’s a different tournament in that its four games instead of six and we can only take 12 players, so we were looking to have flexibility in the 12 in terms of the positions they cover.
“No team has ever won back to back World Cup titles since it’s started so we have certainly talked about that and about being the first team to change that. We know there are massive challenges to come, all the teams will be really well prepared.”
The All Blacks Sevens will play the winner of Russia v Hong Kong in their first match on Saturday 21 July.
Black Ferns Sevens coach Allan Bunting said this was the most challenging squad he has ever had to name.
“It was definitely hard but that’s exactly where we want to be,” he said.
“In our trials there was so much motivation, excitement and skill set; we know we have selected the right team.
“We have had a good year, but this group is strict on themselves, we think we have room to improve and those last bits we need to get right are the toughest.
“Our players are incredibly motivated, playing in an amazing stadium and having the chance to leave mana there, to inspire other women, this is another great opportunity for our team.”
The Black Ferns Sevens face Mexico in their opening match of the World Cup on Friday 20 July.
All Blacks Sevens squad: Kurt Baker (Manawatu), Dylan Collier (Waikato), Scott Curry (Bay of Plenty, cc), Trael Joass (Tasman), Andrew Knewstubb (Horowhenua Kapiti), Jona Nareki (Otago), Tim Mikkelson (Waikato, cc), Sione Molia (Counties Manukau), Salesi Rayasi (Auckland), Joe Ravouvou (Auckland), Akuila Rokolisoa (Auckland), Regan Ware (Bay of Plenty).
Black Ferns Sevens squad: Shakira Baker (Waikato), Michaela Blyde (Bay of Plenty), Kelly Brazier (Bay of Plenty), Gayle Broughton (Bay of Plenty), Theresa Fitzpatrick (Auckland), Sarah Goss (Manawatu, c), Tyla Nathan-Wong (Auckland), Ruby Tui (Bay of Plenty), Stacey Waaka (Waikato), Niall Williams (Auckland), Tenika Willison (Waikato), Portia Woodman (Counties Manukau).