Nathan-Wong to lead Black Ferns Sevens, World Cup winners rested

December 2, 2022
Tyla Nathan-Wong.

Tyla Nathan-Wong will make her return from concussion to lead the Black Ferns Sevens this weekend with the New Zealand women's side without a host of Rugby World Cup winners in Dubai.

Nathan-Wong, who last captained the side in 2019, will lead the team out after heading to the sidelines with a head injury while playing for the Black Ferns 15s earlier this year - a head knock that ruled her out of the World Cups for both the 15-a-side and 7s codes.

Some of her teammates that did take part in the Black Ferns' triumphant campaign on home soil last month will be missing this weekend though with Sarah Hirini, Portia Woodman, Stacey Fluhler, Ruby Tui and Theresa Fitzpatrick all unavailable.

With their ranks depleted, the Black Ferns have brought in three uncapped players for the World Series event; Kelsey Teneti, Manaia Nuku [both Waikato] and Tysha Ikenasio [Auckland]. Canterbury youngster Jorja Miller will also play her first World Series event after making her international debut at the Sevens World Cup in September.

"We've got young girls who haven't experienced the World Series before so the key is not putting any pressure on them, its about going out there, having fun, playing rugby and that will be when we are at our best," said Nathan-Wong.

Nathan-Wong said the team is still looking to make a statement with Great Britain, France and Brazil in their pool.

Tyla Nathan-Wong lies injured during the Black Ferns' Test against Wallaroos.

"Its straight into it for us - no mucking around," she said.

"We know Great Britain have had a long pre-season bringing those three countries together so that will be a big challenge for us first up. But we love that, it will be a good test to see where we are as a squad."

Men's squad

The All Blacks Sevens will also head to Dubai although they have a different challenge ahead in looking to bounce back from their ninth-place finish in the season-opening event in Hong Kong last month.

High placings at events are vital this year with the top four countries from both competitions earning automatic qualification to the 2024 Paris Olympics.

With that in mind, All Blacks Sevens captain Sam Dickson said they were happy to welcome back Che Clark and Lewis Oromond from injury with their sights set on an improved performance this weekend.

"We started slow in Hong Kong. We weren't direct enough and there were silly little things that probably came from not playing in a while. We were happy with how we finished, in our three games on day three we were much more direct and physical - and that has been our focus leading into Dubai."

Drawn in Pool B for Dubai, the team are set to face Argentina, Fiji and Uruguay in another tough assignment.

"Most pools these days are pretty cut throat, with Argentina and Fiji up first it's a great test for our group. We had two physical, hard training weeks heading into this so we are up for it and can't wait for our first game against Argentina," said Dickson.

Dubai Sevens, World Series

All Blacks Sevens: Brady Rush, Tone Ng Shiu, Akuila Rokolisoa, Sam Dickson (c), Amanaki Nicole, Kurt Baker, Joe Webber, Leroy Carter, Moses Leo, Che Clark, Lewis Ormond, Caleb Tangitau, Regan Ware.

Men's pool matches [NZT]: NZ v Argentina on Friday, 7:50pm; NZ v Fiji on Friday, 11:10pm; NZ v Uruguay on Saturday, 4:34am.

Black Ferns Sevens: Niall Williams, Michaela Blyde, Tyla Nathan-Wong (c), Kelly Brazier, Jazmin Felix-Hotham, Terina Te Tamaki, Kelsey Teneti, Shiray Kaka, Tysha Ikenasio, Manaia Nuku, Risaleaana Pouri-Lane, Mahina Paul, Jorja Miller.

Women's pool matches [NZT]: NZ v Great Britain on Friday, 6:44pm; NZ v Brazil on Friday, 10:49pm; NZ v France on Saturday, 2:44am.