Watch: Barnstorming 18-year-old sensation fast-tracked into Black Ferns Sevens after carving up nationals

Eighteen-year-old Alena Saili's forceful efforts to have Black Ferns selectors notice her at this year's Bayley's Sevens Nationals in Rotorua have paid off after the young sensation was named as a contracted player in the 20-women squad today.

Black Ferns Sevens selectors used the extension of the women's squad to 20 contracted players for 2017 as a chance to develop exciting young talent such as Saili as they move forward in their quest for Tokyo gold.

The squad named today features 18 fully-contracted athletes and two training contracts - eight of which are new players to the Black Ferns Sevens environment.

Unlike Sonny Bill, Ruby made sure she got it back – but not before these Rio kids got the thrill of a lifetime. Source: 1 NEWS

Head Coach Allan Bunting said he was excited about the mix of old and new talent in the team.

"When selecting the squad we were looking for a mix of playmaker ability in the middle and power, speed and skill on the outside.

"I'm very happy that we have real potential in all these positions and that we have gained some size, height and have speed throughout the squad.

The star of the NZ women's sevens team says she was honoured by the gesture after returning to NZ with a silver medal. Source: 1 NEWS

"There is already a lot of experience in the squad, but it is youthful experience - every player can go through to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 and most of them could still be going for gold at the two games after that."

Saili enters the team having graduated from Southland Girls' High School just last year.

The blockbusting Otago forward has previously represented New Zealand in under 20's touch and was named the 2016 Senior Sportswoman of the Year at the Southland Secondary Schools Sports Awards.

She also led her school's First XV to a national title in the longer rugby format with three tries in the final against St. Mary's.

However, Lyric Faleafaga of Wellington is the youngest member of the squad, having been selected to the team with a training contract while being in her final year of high school.

"It's great to see amazing talent coming through at such a young age which is exciting for the future of the team," Bunting said.

"Now that sevens is an Olympic sport more teenage athletes are seeing it as a path to competing on the international stage at the highest level."

The full squad will come together for a training camp in Wellington on Monday 23 January ahead of their first tournament, the Wellington Sevens, for the year on January 28 and 29.

The selected squad will contest the remainder of the 2016-2017 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.

Black Ferns Sevens 2017 Squad

Sarah Goss (Captain) – Manawatu
Shakira Baker – Waikato
Michaela Blyde – Bay of Plenty
Kelly Brazier – Bay of Plenty
Gayle Broughton – Taranaki
Rebekah Cordero-Tufuga – Manawatu*
Lyric Faleafaga – Wellington (Training Contract)*
Theresa Fitzpatrick – Auckland*
Crystal Mayes – Manawatu (Training Contract)*
Tyla Nathan-Wong – Auckland
Cheyelle Robins-Reti – Waikato*
Alena Saili – Otago*
Terina Te Tamaki – Waikato
Ruby Tui – Canterbury
Stacey Waaka – Waikato
Katarina Whata-Simpkins – Wellington
Renee Wickliffe – Counties Manukau*
Niall Williams – Auckland
Tenika Willison – Waikato*
Portia Woodman – Counties Manukau


Ryan Crotty admits All Blacks underutilised kicking game in loss to South Africa

All Blacks midfielder Ryan Crotty admitted an area his side failed to utilise in their loss to the Springboks was their kicking game.

The 30-year-old said at a press conference overnight in Argenitna that keeping the ball in hand during their Rugby ChampionshipTest match in Wellington a fortnight ago put them under more pressure.

"I think potentially...we could have kicked a little bit more," Crotty said.

"(We) could have put them under a little bit more pressure. We held the ball a lot and created some opportunities."

The All Blacks went down 36-34 at Westpac Stadium, in a match that went right down to the wire.

"They made a lot of tackles, but potentially we could have put them under pressure in other ways," Crotty said.

The All Blacks are in Argentina, where they take on the Pumas in Buenos Aires on Sunday at José Amalfitani Stadium.

Ryan Crotty.
New Zealand All Blacks v South Africa Springboks. Rugby Championship test match. Westpac Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand. Saturday 15 September 2018. © Copyright photo: Andrew Cornaga /
All Blacks midfielder Ryan Crotty in action against the Springboks in Wellington. Source: Photosport



Revitalised by Springboks loss, All Blacks 'jumping out of their skin' for Argentina Test

All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster revealed that there was a new revitalised energy at training amongst the team, ahead of their Sunday Test against Argentina in Buenos Aires.

After reviewing their 36-34 loss to the Springboks a fortnight ago in Wellington, Foster said the players were eager to correct their mistakes.

"I think everyone was jumping out of their skin to get onto the training park and have a good blowout today," said Foster.

"Two or three days of recovering and our normal processes of reviewing and planning, a bit of added spice to it from our last game."

Argentina will have a lot of confidence going into Sunday's Test, after defeating Australia 23-19 in the Gold Coast two weeks ago.

"We try to keep our processes as consistent as possible because what we are trying to do is review a performance, not just a result," Foster said.

The ABs assistant coach says there is a new energy in the team following their upset. Source: All Blacks TV

"It does add a little bit when you come off a poor performance and the fact that that performance equated to a loss is a bit of a double whammy."

The All Blacks need a bonus point victory against the Pumas this weekend to secure the Rugby Championship title for a third consecutive year.

"We've pulled a few things apart and we are pretty happy as to where we have got to," Foster said.

Argentina defeated the Springboks last month 32-19 in Mendoza but were outclassed 46-24 by the All Blacks the last time they met at Trafalgar Park in Nelson earlier this month.

Jack Goodhue of the All Blacks fends off Tomas Lezana of Argentina during a Rugby Championship match, All Blacks V Argentina , Trafalgar Park, Nelson, New Zealand, 8th September, 2018. Copyright photo: John Davidson /
Jack Goodhue of the All Blacks fends off Tomas Lezana of Argentina during a Rugby Championship match in Nelson. Source: Photosport



England can overtake All Blacks 'within a year' says John Mitchell

Former All Blacks coach John Mitchell believes that England can overtake New Zealand in less than 12 months, having recently joined Eddie Jones' coaching set-up.

Having been in charge of the All Blacks in an ill-fated stint from 2001-03, 54-year old Mitchell now finds himself as England's defence coach, and will take on old team in November.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Mitchell says that beating the All Blacks is a key motivator for his new side, but says that it can happen in less than 12 months.

"I really believe that England can get better and be the best within a year's time. I really do believe that. Why? Because of what I've seen in the past."

"They [the All Blacks] are outstanding, but I guess what gives us all life is that it is a World Cup year and a World Cup does close the gap.

"It's knockout rugby and you just need to focus on being the better team yourself.

"New Zealand have set the benchmark and sent out the signal to all of us – 'you come and get us'."

Conrad Smith against England Source: Photosport


'Never give up until your time is finished' - Israel Dagg still dreaming of All Blacks recall

Former All Black Israel Dagg says he refuses to believe his time in the black jersey is over, after falling down the pecking order in Steve Hansen's side.

Dagg, 30, is currently in the middle of a stint with the Canon Eagles in Japan, appearing to be behind the likes of Rieko Ioane, Ben Smith, Jordie Barrett, Nehe Milner-Skudder and Waisake Naholo in the reckoning for a spot in the All Blacks' back three.

Speaking to Stuff though, Dagg says that he's confident of adding to his 66 Tests, having this year won a second straight Super Rugby title with the Crusaders.

"You never give up until your time is finished in New Zealand. I'll go back to Christchurch next year and give it one last whirl and if it works out, it works out," Dagg said.

"It's pretty competitive in the back three, especially in my position, so we'll see how it goes. I've just got to start playing well for the Crusaders and hopefully things take care of themselves."

With less than a year until the next World Cup in Japan, Dagg also says that he's using the memory of 2015 as motivation, having been overlooked for Steve Hansen's squad for the England tournament.

"It does light a bit of fire in the belly. I hold no grudges, [missing the 2015 Rugby World Cup] was a long time ago. Being a family man now, you kind of can deal with things a lot easier now. Whatever happens, happens. I'll go back to New Zealand and give it my best."

Dagg is yet to feature for the Canon Eagles due to a calf injury, but is available to make his debut on Sunday against the Coca-Cola Red Sparks.

Israel Dagg Source: Getty