Tokyo Olympics: Caleb Clarke’s last chance to carve out a place in the All Blacks team
The Oceania Sevens are the last chance for Caleb Clarke and Etene Nanai-Seturo to solidify their place in the Tokyo Olympics squad after coming down from 15.
The three-day event in Townsville, against Olympic champions Fiji, Australia and a team from the Oceania Barbarians, begins Friday and is the final warm-up event before All Blacks-seven coach Clark Laidlaw , reduce his squad from 19 to 16 next week.
Laidlaw said Clarke and Nanai-Seturo, who played seven until the Covid-19 pandemic hit last March, are back in good shape but neither are guaranteed in the last 13 for the Olympic tournament on July 26-28. There will also be three traveling reserves in Tokyo.
“They were good. We knew it. They came here last year and were here previous years. We didn’t think they would come in and be a mile away, ”Laidlaw said.
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“It allowed them to focus on their rugby and get their seven legs back.
“It will be a big weekend [in Townsville]. It is not because they came back that they were selected. These two are in the mix, like everyone else.
Clarke (Blues) and Nanai-Seturo (Chiefs) joined the squad at Mount Maunganui after Super Rugby Aotearoa ended in early May, but Clarke’s addition in pursuit of a first Olympic gold is more convincing after his explosive form on the wing for the All Blacks last year.
The 22-year-old had been on the seven-a-side program since 2018, although appendix surgery ruled him out of that year’s Commonwealth Games, and he is ready to give the Olympics a chance after his back to seven at last month’s Auckland tournament against Australia.
Clarke said he was surprised at the way he traded 11 to 12 minutes in quick 14-minute games in the All Blacks’ six-to-seven wins over Australia, which suggests his level of form physics for the demanding and shorter game is on the right track for Tokyo.
“I’ve always loved it,” he said of the environment at Seven. “It’s such a great culture to be a part of, and I really found my time here beneficial, enjoying the playing and being around people I love to be with.
Clarke will remain on the wing as the All Blacks Sevens hope to use her pace and power in the flank space, but there could be an intriguing game against another international to excel in the 15-way, former Center des. wallabies Samu Kerevi.
Fijian Kerevi is also hoping the North Queensland tournament can earn him a spot on the Australian Olympic squad after his late jump to seven after a stint in Japan.
“He’s a big threat, and as we saw when he played for Australia he has the size, the strength and the speed,” said Clarke. “With a bit of luck [I’ll] not be pushed around.
Brodie Retallick has been practicing his trade in Japan for the past two seasons.
Coach Laidlaw said the Australians could use Kerevi, who has no experience in the top seven, in the same way that Clarke does.
“He is Fijian. He will be able to play at seven. There is no doubt about it, ”he declared.
“He’s obviously a powerful athlete and maybe Australia will use him as Caleb Clarke for us as a power athlete who can play in short bursts and do real damage.”
As for Fiji, Townsville will be their first international rugby sevens competition in 15 months.
Laidlaw said it would be good to face their old enemies again, who knocked out the All Blacks at seven of the last 2016 Olympics and will always be one of the favorites to bring the gold back to the spiritual home of the Game.
“If you want to win the Olympic title, you probably have to beat Fiji. “
Oceania Sevens (matches involving New Zealand teams at New Zealand time)
Friday: All Blacks seven-a-side against Oceania Barbarians, 4:22 p.m. Black Ferns sevens vs. Oceania Barbarians, 4:44 p.m.; All Blacks at seven v Australia, 9:52 pm; Black Ferns sevens v Fiji, 10:14 p.m.
Saturday: All Blacks seven-a-side against Fiji, 4:22 p.m. Black Ferns at seven against Australia, 5:06 pm; All Blacks seven-a-side against Oceania Barbarians, 9:52 pm; Black Ferns sevens vs. Oceania Barbarians, 10:14 p.m.
Sunday: All Blacks at seven against Australia, 2:52 pm; Black Ferns sevens v Fiji, 3:14 p.m.; All Blacks at seven against Fiji, 8:07 pm; Black Ferns at seven against Australia, 8:55 p.m.
All Blacks to Seven: Kurt Baker, Caleb Clarke, Dylan Collier, Scott Curry, Sam Dickson, Trael Joass, Andrew Knewstubb, Vilimoni Koroi, Ngarohi McGarvey-Black, Tim Mikkelson, Sione Molia, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Tone Ng Shiu, Amanaki Nicole, Akuila Rokolisoa, William Warbrick, Regan Ware, Joe Webber, Kitiona Vai.
Black ferns to seven: Shakira Baker, Michaela Blyde, Kelly Brazier, Gayle Broughton, Dhys Faleafaga, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Stacey Fluhler, Sarah Hirini, Jazmin Hotham, Shiray Kaka, Tyla Nathan-Wong, Risaleaana Pouri-Lane, Alena Saili, Terina Te Tamaki, Ruby Tui, Tenika Willison, Portia Woodman.