With the lure of an Olympic medal in two months, Blues star Caleb Clarke along with Chiefs' Etene Nanai-Seturo have opted to commit to the All Blacks Sevens programme in a bid to be selected for the Tokyo games.
The commitment means both will miss the trans-Tasman Super Rugby competition which kicks off later this week but High Performance Sevens manager Tony Philip said the pair have full support from their clubs and the All Blacks.
“Every time Caleb and Etene have been in our environment they have impressed so it is fantastic that they were keen to return to have a crack at making the Olympic team and that the clubs also supported that decision,” said Philip.
Both players had originally been released from Super Rugby duties last year for the same pursuit but returned to their clubs when Covid-19 resulted in the postponement of the Games.
Clarke went on to star for the Blues in Super Rugby Aotearoa and was subsequently selected for the All Blacks, playing five Tests in a break-through year.
The players will likely have two tournaments to fight for Olympic selection, with a series against Australia later this month before an Oceania hit out in June.
All Blacks Sevens Coach Clark Laidlaw said he’s delighted to have the players back.
“They’ve been a big part of our team over the past two or three years, so it feels quite natural them coming back into our environment. The communication and connection has stayed strong in this period so now it's about realigning them with how we are doing things and get them back up to speed with our game.
“They are both fit, fast and strong so physically they’ll slot in, our game has evolved a bit in the past six months though so some of the technical and tactical stuff will be really important to get right.”
Clarke added he was enjoying being back with the All Blacks Sevens team.
"Going to the Olympics would be a once in a lifetime opportunity so I'm looking forward to get back into training and putting my best foot forward," said Clarke.