New Zealand will have to do without the services of captain Sarah Goss, playmaker Kelly Brazier and try-scoring machine Portia Woodman as they attempt to wrap up the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series 2016-17 title in the final rounds in Canada and France.
The trio, who have 65 series tournaments between them, will remain in New Zealand with the 15s squad to prepare for the International Rugby Women's Series with world champions England, Australia and Canada next month and Women's Rugby World Cup 2017 in Ireland in August.
Langford will be the first tournament Goss has missed since the women's series began in Dubai in December 2012 with Tyla Nathan-Wong stepping up to assume the captaincy for the HSBC Canada Sevens in Langford on 27-28 May.
Theresa Fitzpatrick is also part of that 15s squad but has been released to the Black Ferns Sevens for Langford in what will be her final event of a series which has seen New Zealand return to the top of the standings after winning three of the four rounds to date.
Shakira Baker, Jess Drummond and Crystal Mayes come into the squad in place of the experienced trio of Goss, Brazier and Woodman in Langford.
“Many of our experienced players are moving over to the Black Ferns for the next couple of months so it has given us the opportunity to look a bit deeper into our talent pool,” explained coach Allan Bunting. “It’s created opportunities for players with less game time over the world series to step up for the last two tournaments.
“While many of these players have been in our wider team environment this year, injury or other factors have ruled them out of selection, so our training-camp this week has been about whanaungatanga. We’ve welcomed the new players and given the team clarity, confidence and courage to express themselves and front every challenge.
“This is also an opportunity for us to extend our leadership group, with Tyla Nathan-Wong stepping up from assistant captain to captain with support from Ruby Tui and Niall Williams who have been doing an outstanding job in our leadership group.
“We’re stoked for our players who’ve been selected for the Black Ferns for the upcoming International Women’s Rugby Series and are in contention for the Rugby World Cup. It’s a great opportunity for them to experience a pinnacle event, represent our country and compete for a World Cup.
“They will play some physical close quarter rugby, learn new skills from quality coaches and will come back to sevens better from it. They will have an appreciation of the abundance of space that we have in sevens, but understand the skill set and energy systems needed to maximise the space.”
The Black Ferns Sevens, who sit 10 points clear of Olympic and defending series champions Australia at the top of the standings, will face USA, England and the invitational team the Netherlands in Pool A at the HSBC Canada Sevens in Langford.
“We’re well aware of the challenges we have ahead of us in our pool in Langford against England and USA. We will be taking it one game at a time. It is great to see the Netherlands back in the series for this leg, they always put up a physical well-rounded challenge and have really pushed us in the past, so we are focused on them for now.”
New Zealand squad: Tyla Nathan-Wong (captain), Shakira Baker, Michaela Blyde, Rebekah Cordero-Tufuga, Jess Drummond, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Crystal Mayes, Cheyelle Robins-Reti, Alena Saili, Ruby Tui, Katarina Whata-Simpkins, Niall Williams.
Travelling reserves: Lyric Faleafaga, Tayla Reti
OLYMPIANS RETURN FOR USA
Rio 2016 Olympians Jessica Javelet and Richelle Stephens will make their first appearances of the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2016-17 after making the USA squad for the HSBC Canada Sevens in Langford on 27-28 May.
Javelet attended her first Women's Sevens Eagles camp at the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center this month and impressed coach Richie Walker and his staff to earn selection as one of five changes to the squad that finished seventh at the last round in Kitakyushu, Japan.
Teenager Mata Hingano, a Women's Junior All-American, is poised for her series debut and "brings a different type of player to the squad" in Walker's eyes, while Cheta Emba and Kate Zackary also make their returns to the squad.
The Women's Eagles Sevens will face series leaders New Zealand, England and the Netherlands in Pool A.
USA squad: Cheta Emba, Kristen Thomas, Kate Zackary, Nicole Heavirland, Richelle Stephens, Alev Kelter (captain), Naya Tapper, Kelly Griffin, Kelsi Stockert, Joanne Fa'avesi, Mata Hingano, Jessica Javelet.
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