New Zealand name sevens squad to defend IRB title

New Zealand named four new players Thursday to its squad for the opening two rounds of its defence of the International Rugby Board (IRB) World Sevens series.

The opening round of the 2008-2009 series will be held in Dubai on November 28 and 29 — also the venue for next year’s Rugby World Cup Sevens — and the second round will be held in George, South Africa the following week.

“We enjoyed a really good series last year and the challenge is to back that up again this year with the added interest created by the Rugby World Cup Sevens,” New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens said.

“We have picked a squad we believe can respond to this challenge which combines some of our really experienced sevens players with some new, young players who will join the national team for the first time.”

The newcomers to the squad are Paul Grant, Kurt Baker, Tim Nanai-Williams and the squad’s youngest member, 18-year-old Julian Savea.

Two of last year’s squad, Edwin Cocker and Nigel Hunt, were not considered because of injury.

New Zealand has won eight of the nine IRB sevens series held since its inception in the 1999-2000 season, with Fiji’s win in 2005-2006 the only year they failed to top the competition.

New Zealand squad:

Kurt Baker, Tomasi Cama, DJ Forbes (captain), Solomon King, Zar Lawrence, Tim Mikkelson, Lote Raikabula, Willie Rickards, Julian Savea, Nafi Tuitavake, Paul Grant, Tim Nanai-Williams.

Sapa-AFP –

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