The absence of the World Sevens Series is providing a boost for the club and provincial game with several of New Zealand's stars set to feature in domestic competitions.
New Zealand 7s Captain Sarah Hirini and World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year winners Ruby Tui, Michaela Blyde and Portia Woodman are among 15 contracted players that will link up with club teams across seven Provincial Unions.
Black Ferns Sevens Co-Coach Cory Sweeney said with the postponement of the World Series and the Tokyo Olympics, players were eager for game time.
“This is a big opportunity for the players to focus on developing their skillsets and themselves as players. They are all excited to get game time and to connect with their communities and with what made them a Black Ferns Sevens player.
“The benefits are two-fold, because firstly they will be contributing to the growth of women’s rugby in our country. And secondly, 2021 is a big year with Olympics and World Cup so we want the women’s game to be successful in both formats. Our players having the chance to hone their skills in 15s might catch the selectors’ eyes for the World Cup,” said Sweeney.
Black Ferns Sevens management will work with Provincial Union High Performance staff to monitor players, with many eyeing Farah Palmer Cup selection when the competition kicks off in August.
New Zealand Rugby’s Head of Women’s Rugby Cate Sexton said the Black Ferns Sevens players would add a level of excitement to the women’s club game.
“Having players with their experience and professionalism will be fantastic for the clubs and provincial unions they play for.
“These are some of the best players in the world, and to have them involved at grass roots is great for our game and will just add to the momentum as we build towards hosting Rugby World Cup 2021,” said Sexton.
Black Ferns Sevens Captain Sarah Hirini is returning to Manawatu and is looking forward to a club season with Feilding Old Boys Oroua.
"I'm pumped, it's so exciting to go home and play some club rugby and Farah Palmer Cup. It's where rugby started for me so I hope i can share as much knowledge from my experiences and help grow those around me," said Hirini.
The Black Ferns Sevens players returning to their clubs in staggered starts are:
Gayle Broughton (Southern, Taranaki), Michaela Blyde (Rangiuru, Bay of Plenty), Kelly Brazier (Rangataua, Bay of Plenty), Mahina Paul (Rangataua, Bay of Plenty), Alena Saili (Mt Maunganui Sports, Bay of Plenty), Tenika Willison (Mt Maunganui Sports, Bay of Plenty), Cheyelle Robins-Reti (Mt Maunganui Sports, Bay of Plenty), Stacey Fluhler (Melville, Waikato), Jazmin Hotham (Melville, Waikato), Sarah Hirini (Feilding Old Boys Oroua, Manawatu), Theresa Fitzpatrick (Ponsonby, Auckland), Ruby Tui (to be confirmed), Dhys Faleafaga (Norths, Wellington), Tyla Nathan-Wong (Te Rarawa, Northland), Portia Woodman (Kaikohe, Northland)