Glasgow Sevens: Kaka and Vaka return as All Blacks chase Rio target

Sir Gordon Tietjens makes two changes to his New Zealand squad for the final two rounds of the HSBC Sevens World Series

By Gareth Llewellyn

Gillies Kaka returns as one of two changes to the All Blacks 7s squad for the final two rounds of the HSBC Sevens World Series in Glasgow and London.

The Hawke’s Bay playmaker has been missing for New Zealand since injuring his hand at the Las Vegas Sevens in February.

The other change sees Counties Manukau back Sam Vaka return for his first World Series event since the Port Elizabeth Sevens in December, after his injury at the National Sevens in January.

DJ Forbes continues as captain as the All Blacks look to chase down South Africa and Fiji to defend their Glasgow title, while there are also places for pivotal figures Tim Mikkelson and Sherwin Stowers.

“Gillies has a big influence on the way we play and with Beaudein Waaka it gives us huge depth in the crucial position of half-back,” said Tietjens.

“Sam’s a powerful player, strong in contact and very quick.

“He’s someone who gives it his all when he plays in the black jersey, so we’re looking forward to him performing well in Glasgow.”

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New Zealand won the Glasgow Sevens in 2014 Photo: World Rugby/Martin Seras Lima

New Zealand approach the penultimate round in Glasgow knowing that another poor performance, like their fifth-place finish in Tokyo last time out, could end their hopes of landing a 13th World Series crown.

Qualifying for the Olympics is always our first priority, so it’s paramount we do well and accumulate more points.

Sir Gordon Tietjens

That task won’t be easy with the defending champions in the same pool as current World Series leaders South Africa, Samoa, and Glasgow Sevens fan favourites Kenya.

But their ultimate target remains qualification for the inaugural Rugby Sevens event at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, and they can make certain of automatic qualification by finishing at least fourth at Scotstoun Stadium.

“It’s important we do well,” Tietjens said.

“If we win that pool and go on to win the tournament we can go on to win the World Series.

“It’s going to be tough. Qualifying for the Olympics is always our first priority, so it’s paramount we do well and accumulate more points.

“We finished last season by winning the last two tournaments, but this will be tougher.

“We’re sitting third on the table, but we can bounce back and we’ve been in this situation where at the death we’ve won another World Series, so it’s a challenge for us and I am hoping we really perform.”

All Blacks 7s: Scott Curry, Ambrose Curtis, Dylan Collier, Sam Dickson, Gillies Kaka, DJ Forbes (captain), Reiko Ioane, Tim Mikkelson, Sherwin Stowers, Beudein Waaka, Joe Webber, Sam Vaka.

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