New Zealand women's national rugby sevens team

The New Zealand women's national rugby sevens team represents New Zealand in the World Rugby Sevens Series, Rugby World Cup Sevens, Summer Olympic Games and the Commonwealth Games.

New Zealand Women's Sevens
UnionNew Zealand Rugby
Nickname(s)Black Ferns Sevens
Coach(es)Cory Sweeney
Captain(s)Michaela Blyde
Most capsTyla Nathan-Wong (269)[1]
Top scorerTyla Nathan-Wong (1,448)
Team kit
Change kit
First international
 New Zealand 54–0  Japan
(15 March 1997)
World Cup Sevens
Appearances4 (First in 2009)
Best resultChampions (2013, 2018)
Official website
Lineout for New Zealand playing Australia at the Dubai Women Sevens tournament in 2012

The team played for the first time at the 1997 Hong Kong Women's Sevens.

They have won 2 World Cups, 8 Women's Rugby Sevens Series, 4 Oceania Women's Sevens Series and 1 Summer Olympic and Commonwealth tournament.



Early days


The "New Zealand Wild Ducks", an unofficial women's sevens team, represented New Zealand in the early years of women's rugby sevens. Composed of players such as Anna Richards, Monique Hirovaana, Dianne Apiti (later Kahura), Suzy Shortland, Louisa Wall, Tasha Williams, Annaleah Rush, Mata Young, Sharleen Holden and Ria Ataera, they competed in the inaugural 1997 tournament and emerged victorious. Richards was named Player of the Tournament. Despite not being officially recognised as a national side by the New Zealand Rugby Union at the time, seven players from the "Wild Ducks" (Hirovaana, Kahura, Richards, Rush, Shortland, Wall and Williams) also represented New Zealand at the 1998 Women's Rugby World Cup, where they clinched the World Championship title under the guidance of coach Darryl Suasua. The team won the second tournament in 1999.[2][3]

The first official New Zealand women's sevens team was selected in 2000 and was coached by Darryl Suasua.[2][3] They won the 2000 Hong Kong Sevens after defeating Australia 36–10 in the final.[2] the team consisted of Lavinia Gould, Sherry Hansen, Dianne Kahura, Noi Kurei, Sharleen Nathan (née Holden),Hannah Porter (née Myers), Anna Richards, Annaleah Rush, Suzy Shortland and Tammi Wilson.[4] They returned the next year to win the 2001 tournament by defeating the United States team 22–10 in the final.

Aotearoa Māori


The New Zealand Rugby Football Union then decided to not fund any subsequent official attendance. Wishing to keep New Zealand involved in the tournament and thus keep up its profile the USA Sevens coach Emil Signes who was one of the tournament organisers approached Bay of Plenty coach Peter Joseph who had been coaching the Aotearoa Māori sevens team since its formation in 2000. Signes asked him to try to bring a team to the event.[5] Joseph agreed to do so. As they were not endorsed by the New Zealand Rugby Union they were unable to receive any funding from charitable trusts. As Joseph and his wife Shelly were considering moving they sold their house and via a mortgage on their new Rotorua home provided NZ$64,000 to fund the team.[6]

Consisting up of just Māori players this unofficial New Zealand team won the 2002 tournament, defeating the USA in the final.[6] They were told that they wouldn't be allowed to return to complete in the 2003 event as members of the team were selected on race and instead the Wild Ducks would be invited. Joseph protested and the team was allowed back, this time with the very blonde haired Stephanie Mortimer in the team, which put an end to the complaint.[6] They won the 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and the 2007 events.[6][5] Embarrassed by their success the organisers decreed that only “full national” teams and excluded from the tournament from the 2008 and 2009 events.[7] In 2010 they received a late invitation to attend that years tournament, losing in the semi-final to the eventual tournament winners, the Aussie Amazons. Prior to the 2006 event the organisers obtained to 15 year old Sharn Waru playing in what they claimed was an over 18 year old event. Despite it being pointed out that a 17 year old was playing for China and Waru having a clearance to play from the New Zealand Rugby Foot Union it wasn't until a letter was produced from her uncle Tana Umaga that she was allowed to play.[6] She went on to score the winning try in the final. At one point when the Māori Party was in a coalition government with the National Party the team received a grant of $25,000.[6] In May 2008 they played in the first ever women's seven match held at Twickenham, losing 14–10 to England.[8]

Aotearoa Māori also won the Roma International Rugby Sevens Tournament in 2010, 2011 and 2012.[5] In the final of the 2012 event they defeated a Russian team, 24–21.[9] Between 2002 and 2007 they won 33 games in a row.[6] Between 2000 and 2012 the team won 14 of the 18 official tournaments that they had entered.[6] Of the 81 women who served with Aotearoa Māori over its life 34 were to go on to serve either in the Black Ferns or Black Ferns Sevens.[10] Among the nine who were to go on to serve in the Black Ferns Sevens were Honey Hireme, Sarah Hirini (née Goss) and Selica Winiata.[6]



Among those who served in the team at the 2002 Hong Kong Sevens events was Mere Baker, who by 2009, due to injury and her age was no longer being selected by Aotearoa Māori. To provide them with competition Baker with the support of Ernie Goodhue helped establish the KUSA (Kiwi/USA) Superclub Sevens. Initially most of its players were sourced from those who had missed out on selection for Aotearoa Māori, plus others from Canterbury and the USA. Coached by Baker and Goodhue among those who played for the team were Black Ferns such as Zoey Berry, Kelly Brazier, Olivia Coady, Lavinia Gould, Halie Hurring, Kendra Cocksedge, Amiria Rule, Anika Tiplady and newcomers such as Ruby Tui.[10] The KUSA were beaten in the final of the 2011 Roma International Rugby Sevens Tournament in June 2011 by Aotearoa Māori.[11] The KUSA went on to win the Byron Bay tournament held in October 2011 and a development side (featuring a young Ruby Tui) completed in a Gold Coast tournament in November 2011, losing in the quarter finals to Tonga.[10][12] As they had no official backing the team had to fund raise to play in tournaments with for example participation in the Gold Coast tournament requiring each member of the team to contribute approximately NZ$3,000, either out of their own pocket or though fundraising.[13]

KUSA ceased to exist after the New Zealand Rugby commenced funding the Black Ferns to compete in the World Series in 2012.[10]

First World Cup


In July 2008 Darryl Suasua was appointed coach of an officially sanctioned New Zealand women's sevens side to compete in the inaugural Women's Rugby Sevens World Cup which was to held in Dubai in 2009.[14] As a part of the New Zealand's preparations a squad of 29 players assemble in Auckland on 12 July for a three-day trial camp, which would be reduced to 12 to compete in the qualifying tournament in Samoa, on 25–26 July. Selected for the trial squad were: Billy Jean Ale, Fa'anati Aniseko, Victoria Blackledge, Kelly Brazier, Kendra Cocksedge, Exia Edwards, Julie Ferguson, Honey Hireme, Carla Hohepa, Linda Itunu, Jennifer James, Justine Lavea, Vaniya Lavea, Stacey Lene, Huriana Manuel, Angela McGregor, Hannah Porter, Amiria Rule, Melissa Ruscoe, Aroha Savage, Aimee Sutorius, Karley Te Kawa, Teresa Te Tamaki, Ngahuri Thompson, Mallory Townsend, Hazel Tubic, Shaan Waru, Renee Wickliffe and Selica Winiata.[14]

Sixteen teams turned up in Dubai to compete in the World Cup, with New Zealand losing in the final to Australia 15–10.

Go for Gold


In October 2009 the International Olympic Committee agreed by 81 to 8 votes to include Rugby sevens in the Rio Olympics.[15]

Aware that it was important to New Zealand's reputation that they field a competitive team, the decision was made by New Zealand Rugby to establish a high performance woman's sevens squad.[16] Tony Philp who was responsible for New Zealand Rugby's men's sevens was allocated NZ$50,000 and assigned the task. Soon after Sean Horan was appointed fulltime coach with support to be provided by the regional sevens resource coaches.[17] The decision was soon made to have the country's 14 national provincial unions host open trials targeted at woman between the ages of 16 and 24 irrespective of whether they had any prior rugby experience.[18] The programme was called "Go for Gold" and used the tag "Got what it takes to Go for Gold" in advertising targeted at young woman. Philip was of the opinion that compared with other countries most New Zealand woman even if they had never played the game would have seen a game and thus had an innate understanding of the game and its terminology.[18]

Allan Bunting who had played men's sevens and had started coaching was recruited in 2012 to assist Philp and Horan. In addition to radio, television and print advertising the trio used their contacts to assist with talent spotting. One thousand online applicants were received of whom 800 attended the trials where they were put through various fitness, rugby skills and character assessment activities.[19] Michaela Blyde was made to attend a trial by her mother Cherry who was a former Black Fern. Blyde was heavily involved in playing soccer at the time and was upset when attendance at a second trial meant missing out on a soccer tournament.[20] A naturally talented sportswoman Gayle Broughton had a troubled childhood, which had led to her being expelled at the age of 16 from high school. Her grandmother promised to give her $10 if she would attend a trial.[21] This was enough to tempt her to meet her grandmother the morning after a party and be driven by her to what she thought would be a "dumb trial".[22]

The 60 most promising then attended a camp at Waiouru in mid-2012.[23] This group was further reduced to 30, who then attended a second training camp at Waiouru.[23] Among those selected were Shakira Baker, Blyde, Broughton, as well as Huriana Manuel, Carla Hohepa, Linda Itunu, and Hazel Tubic who had already represented their country in test rugby while Sarah Hirini had played with Aotearoa Maori, Ruby Tui and Tyla Nathan-Wong who were playing club rugby.[24] Also at Waiouru were semi-professional netballers Kayla McAlister and Portia Woodman, who without telling their coach had enrolled in the Go for Gold program.[25]

After volunteering at various activities Stu Ross joined the coaching team as an analyst. Emphasis now began on improving the squad members skill level, fitness and nutrition. Training of commenced at provincial academes with squad members only paid when the entire squad assembled.

First Competition


The first official Sevens team to see action since the announcement that it would be an Olympic sport was the team which participated in the 2012 Oceania Women's Sevens Championship which was held in Fiji on 3–4 August 2012. The team of 12, consisting of Shakira Baker, Kendra Cocksedge, Moana Forbes, Sarah Hirini (vice-captain), Charlene Halapua, Linda Itunu, Huriana Manuel (captain), Kayla McAlister, Tyla Nathan-Wong, Hazel Tubic, Ruby Tui and Portia Woodman was a mix of newcomers to rugby and experienced fifteen-a-side international players.[26] The team won the tournament, which gained New Zealand entry to the 2013 World Cup in Moscow, Russia, which they won.

Following the teams return to New Zealand canoeist Lisa Carrington visited one of their training camps and bought along her gold medal from London Olympics to inspire them.[27]

While they were not on any salary each team member received a payment of NZ$2,000 per tournament.[27]

2012-2013 Seven Series Season


Following the Oceania tournament a squad consisting of Lauren Burgess, Marama Davis, Sarah Hirini, Lavinia Gould, Carla Hohepa, Chyna Hohepa, Linda Itunu, Kayla McAlister, Huriana Manuel, Tyla Nathan Wong, Amanda Rasch and Portia Woodman was selected to complete in the inaugural 2012–13 IRB Women's Sevens World Series.[28][29]

Captained by Manuel the team won the series following a fourth at Houston and wins at Guangzhou and Amsterdam having scored 169 points and conceded 34.[30]

Because of their potential to win gold at the Olympics, High Performance Sport New Zealand in 2013 provided funding of $800,000 which was increased to $900,000 in 2014.

2013-2014 Seven Series Season


The 2013-2014 season commenced with a loss to Australia in the final of the Dubai Sevens, a win in Atlanta, followed by a runner up in São Paulo before the squad won the next six tournaments to win that year's title.[31]

By 2014 the squad still under the overall direction of head coach Sean Horan had consolidated around two hubs, one at Auckland under Allan Bunting and the other at Mount Maunganui under Cory Sweeney.[32] A few players were located in the Waikato.[33]

2014-2015 Seven Series Season


For the 2014–2015 season the players were awarded contracts with at least four “tier one” players getting NZ$30,000 for, at least four “tier two” players getting NZ$25,000 and the remaining contracted players NZ$15,000 to NZ$20,000.[34] Despite this most of the players still had to take paid jobs and were having balance that along with training, overseas travel and often family commitments.[35]

The 2014-15 season commenced with four wins in a row, at Dubai, São Paulo, Atlanta and Langford in Canada before at London they suffered a shock loss to Spain in pool play and they eventually finished fourth. At Amsterdam they lost to the USA team in group play and then lost their quarter final game with England. Their early wins however allowed them to retain the series title and with it gain automatic qualification to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

After Huriana Manuel suffered a serious ankle injury at the 2014 Fifteens World Cup, which ruled her out of playing for the Sevens team she was replaced as captain by Sarah Hirini.[36]

2015-2016 Seven Series Season


In 2015 the team attended an intensive physical training camp in high temperatures and humidity in Fiji. This was followed by an even more intensive winter camp in Waiouru designed to push them to their physical limits and overseen by the army. With 5am starts, tasks included trying to erect an army canvas tent in a deep cold pool, having to push army trucks for kilometres and in one remote dissolute location having to dig a hole with their entrenching tool which they then had to sleep overnight.[37] To her horror Carla Hohepa dug into the nest of a large spider.

For the 2015–2016 season the players with the assistance of the New Zealand Rugby Players Association were able to get their contracts raised, with NZ$40,000 on offer for the senior players.[38]

By the start of the 2015–16 season other teams were starting to catch up the team. This coupled with the hub system reducing their off-field connection, conflicts over the style of play between Horan and the players unsettled the team and their performances became inconsistent.[39][40] The season commenced with a loss to Russia in pool play at Dubai and a loss to Australia in the quarter-final, Manuel returned in 2016. They were third at São Paulo, then runners up at Atlanta and Langford, Australia and England respectively. They were third at Clermont-Ferrand, with Australia winning the season title. New Zealand was runner up despite not winning a single tournament.

In January 2016 a squad of 22 was announced, consisting of Shakira Baker, Michaela Blyde, Kelly Brazier, Gayle Broughton, Sarah Hirini, Honey Hireme, Carla Hohepa, Lesley Ketu, Huriana Manuel, Kayla McAlister, Tyla Nathan-Wong, Shiray Kaka (née Tane), Terina Te Tamaki, Hazel Tubic, Ruby Tui, Janna Vaughan, Stacey Waaka (later Fluher), Jordon Webber, Kat Whata-Simpkins, Niall Williams, Selica Winiata and Portia Woodman.[41]

From this squad, it was intended that 12 players will be selected for the New Zealand sevens team to compete at the 2016 Olympic Games.

2016 Rio Olympic Games


The New Zealand Women's Rugby Sevens team for the Rio Olympics was: Shakira Baker, Kelly Brazier, Gayle Broughton, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Sarah Hirini (captain), Kayla McAlister, Huriana Manuel, Tyla Nathan-Wong, Terina Te Tamaki, Ruby Tui, Niall Williams, Portia Woodman with the travelling reserves being Michaela Blyde and Shiray Tane.[42]

Prior to the commencement of the games in order to assist the players in adjusting to the heat of Brazil they had a training camp in Tampa, Florida.

At the Rio Olympics the team scored 109 points and conceded 12 in pool play before beating the USA in the quarter-finals, Great Britain in the semi-finals, but lost 24–17 to Australia in the final. The loss hit the squad hard.[43] Among the members of the team were Shakira Baker, Gayle Broughton, Woodman, Sarah Hirini, Niall Williams, Manuel, Nathan-Wong and Michaela Blyde (who was a travelling reserve). Broughton ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) at the São Paulo tournament in February 2016 and after opting for a non-surgical treatment played at Rio without ligaments in the effected knee.[44]

Following Rio Sean Horan resigned as coach.[45] Allan Bunting and Cory Sweeney both applied for the head coaching position, agreeing that regardless of who got the job, the other would serve as others assistant.[46] In early November 2016 Bunting was appointed as the new head coach with Sweeney as his assistant, while Stu Ross accepted the position of analyst and set-piece coach.[46][47]

There were changes among the players with Huriana Manuel retiring and Kayla McAlister taking a year away from the game in order to have a child.[45]

Bunting and Sweeney decided to play games using a player lead approach that used space and relentless attack, even from while on defense, a style that they came to term "Kokirikiri".[48] Hirini remained captain and to support her the coaches encouraged other senior players to take on various roles. Once the coaches had set the overall approach for a game Kelly Brazier and Tyla Nathan-Wong would led general performance preparation and direct on field set plays, especially on attack. They also took on Tui and Williams lead the team off field culture and in defense on field. Fluhler and Woodman took responsibility for the squad's Māori culture.[49] As the team culture developed Māori culture and language began to become more and more integrated into the team.[50] With half the team of Samoan descent, there is a strong Samoan influence as well.[50] Fluhler created a team song by writing lyrics to "Te KapaRapango Takiwhitu" in English which her cousin translated into Māori.[50]

2016-2017 Seven Series Season


The first chance to try the new approach was at Dubai in December 2016 which gave the chance to debut the teenage Tenika Williams and give fringe players Rebekah Tufuga-Corden, Katarina Whata-Simpkins and Jordan Webber a run. With no losses they won their first tournament in more than a year despite being reduced by injuries having only 10 players available for the final. Dubai was the last tournament at which a team member was used to bring water to the on field players after it was observed that the exuberant "chatter" from an injured Niall Williams who was on water-duty ran the risk of giving away too much information to their Australian rivals.[51]

Following on from the success of the 2012 "Go For Gold" talent identification programme, New Zealand Rugby held 18 trials in February 2017 throughout New Zealand to identify potential athletes for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.[52]

In January 2017 a squad of 20 was selected, with 18 on full contracts and two on training contracts. With Kayla McAlister pregnant and Huriana Manuel having retired the squad consisted of Sarah Hirini (captain), Shakira Baker, Michaela Blyde, Kelly Brazier, Gayle Broughton, Rebekah Cordero-Tufuga, Lyric Faleafaga (training contract), Theresa Fitzpatrick, Crystal Mayes (training contract), Tyla Nathan-Wong, Cheyelle Robins-Reti, Alena Saili, Terina Te Tamaki, Ruby Tui, Stacey Fluher, Katarina Whata-Simpkins, Renee Wickliffe, Niall Williams, Tenika Willison and Portia Woodman.[53]

The latter half of the season was disrupted when a number of players including Kelly Brazier, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Sarah Hirini and Portia Woodman were recruited for the Black Ferns fifteen-a-side team to compete in that teams ultimately successful 2017 Women's Rugby World Cup campaign in August of that year. Despite the loss of some of their best-known players the rest of the Sevens team won in Canada in May, then in France in June and thus ensured that the team won the World Series with 118 points compared to the next closest team which was Australia with 108 points.

2017-2018 Seven Series Season


The 2017–18 World Rugby Women's Sevens Series didn't get off to the best start when at Dubai New Zealand was beaten 14–12 by the USA in the quarter-finals, despite having beaten them 45–14 in pool play. This was Kayla McAlister's first tournament after returning from maternity leave. In the final of the Sydney Sevens in January 2018 the Black Ferns Sevens were well beaten 31-nil by Australia. This was the last tournament prior to the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in three months time. After a detailed analysis of what had gone wrong the squad began a fitness training regime designed to allow them to play for a third half.[54]

In early 2018 the following 23 players were awarded contracts covering the next 12 months, Shakira Baker, Michaela Blyde, Kelly Brazier, Gayle Broughton, Lyric Faleafaga (who graduated from a training to a full contract), Rhiarna Ferris (who was new to the squad), Theresa Fitzpatrick, Stacey Fluher, Sarah Hirani, Huia Harding (who was new to the squad), Jazmin Hotham (training contract), Shiray Kaka, Natahlia Moors (training contract), Tyla Nathan-Wong, Risi Pouri-Lane (who was new to the squad), Leanna Ryan (training contract), Alena Saili, Terina Te Tamaki, Ruby Tui, Kat Whata-Simpkins, Niall Williams, Tenika Willison and Portia Woodman.[55]

In 2018 it was decided to centralise as much of the men's and women's Sevens program at a single location, taking into consideration a climate that allowed maximising of training time, availability of affordable housing and a facility with a playing field that provided office space, meeting rooms a gymnasium and a recovery area. The University of Waikato Adams Centre for High Performance at Mount Maunganui was selected as the best option and the two teams officially moved in on 1 October 2018.[56][57]

2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games


Just prior to departure for their pre-camp on the Sunshine Coast Kat Whata-Simpkins suffered a hamstring injury, which resulted first in 18 year old Risi Pouri-Lane being added to the travelling team and when it was confirmed that Kat would not recover in time Tenika Willison was promoted to the initial 12. Alena Saili was made a travelling reserve or 13th player with Pouri-Lane staying on as another reserve Ruby Tui then caught mumps, whose highly contagious nature meant that the whole team had to go into isolation at their Brisbane accommodation.[58]

The competition at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games held in April 2018 was shorter than normal as there were only eight teams organized into two pools, with the top two teams going forward from each pool. In the warm-up to the final Broughton's knee accidentally hit Blyde, just above her eye which caused blood to flow from her eyebrow. Within minutes Tyla Nathan-Wong had to be sent to hospital after her neck was injured after accidentally collided with Stacey Fluhler's backside. Willison was promoted to the starting lineup as halfback and Pouri-Lane was promoted to the playing 12.[58] These issues delayed the start of the game by five minutes In the final Kelly Brazier scored a runaway 80 metres try in extra time that won the game for New Zealand, while leaving her totally exhausted on the ground.[59]

Following the conclusion of the Commonwealth Games the team returned to the uncompleted 2017-2018 sevens season, winning all three of the remaining tournaments. This was however insufficient to overcome the losses at Dubai and Sydney. As a result, Australia won the overall series title. Portia Woodman was both the season's leading try and points scorers, followed by Michael Blyde in both categories.

2018 World Cup


In July 2018 the team won the 2018 Women's Rugby Sevens World Cup in San Francisco to become women's champion.[60] Rugby World Cup Sevens. Michaela Blyde scored the most tries (nine) and the most points in the competition. In the final Blyde scored three tries as New Zealand beat France 29–0.[61]

The team won the Team of the Year award for 2018 at the Halberg Awards.[62]

2018-2019 Seven Series Season


New Zealand commenced the 2018–19 World Rugby Women's Sevens Series season with tournament wins at Glendale in Colorado, Dubai and Sydney ended their 37-game winning streak with a 17-all draw to Russia in pool play at Kitakyusha, then in pool play they suffered their first ever a loss to France, before being beaten in the quarter-final by USA to finish fifth. The team had commenced the tournament with their coach Bunting on personal leave, Woodman out since October 2018 with a long term Achilles tendon injury, while the central experienced core of the team was decimated by Fitzpatrick, Blyde, Brazier and Broughton not being available, further compounded by Fluhler becoming injured partway through the tournament.[63] The team rebounded to win the tournament in Canada, before at Biarratz being beaten in the final of the season's last tournament. However they still had accumulated enough points to win the series, while Sarah Hirini became the first woman to play in 200 World Series games.[64]

2019-2020 Seven Series Season


The 2019–2020 season began with a third place at Glendale, before tournament wins at Dubai, Cape Town, Hamilton and Sydney, losing only two games across all five of these tournaments. With Woodman still out of commission Fluhler filled her shoes to become the series dominant try scorer.[65] Shakira Baker ruptured her ACL in the final at Dubai in December.[65] She was not able to recover in time to be considered for Tokyo.[66]

In January 2019 the following 21 players were awarded contracts, Shakira Baker, Michaela Blyde, Kelly Brazier, Gayle Broughton, Rhiarna Ferris, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Huia Harding, Sarah Hirini, Jazmin Hotham, Tyla Nathan-Wong, Mahina Paul, Risi Pouri-Lane, Alena Saili, Montessa Tairakena, Terina Te Tamaki, Ruby Tui, Stacey Fluher, Kat Whata-Simpkins, Niall Williams, Tenika Willison and Portia Woodman.[67] Previously involved in the Youth Olympic Games and having completed their high school education Jazmin Hotham, Montessa Tairakena and Mahina Paul were able to promoted to full time contracts.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the remainder of the season being cancelled. As New Zealand was leading the competition with 783 points scored they were awarded the 2020 series title.[68]



Due to the international Sevens competition being put on hold the support personnel at the performance base at Mount Manganui was reduced in number with some remaining but on reduced hours. The players had their salaries reduced. The remaining men and women players were organized into a single combined training group in order to form a nucleus of sevens squad overseen by Sweeney, men's coach Clark Laidlaw and men's strength and conditioning coach Blair Mills.[69] Allan Bunting, who had previous been commuting from Auckland stayed in there.

The combining of the two teams had the benefit of exposing the respective sexes to different ways of doing things. After the initial lockdown life within New Zealand returned to a relative normal in late 2020 as the squad reformed and ways were found to prepare for the Tokyo games were had been rescheduled for 2021. Among them were games against a Moana Pasifika team and a team sourced from members of the Black Ferns fifteens in a mini tournament in Wellington which was termed Pure Sevens.[70]

The opening of the trans-Tasman bubble in May 2021 allowed the playing of six games against Australia at the Orākei Domain in Auckland which was organized to provide two games per day. The Black Sevens won the series 5–1 with Woodman back in top form.[71][72] In an effort to replicate playing against team like the USA which had size and speed the team in the first half of 2021 played the Hamilton Boys High School. This school had won the Condor Sevens national school competition sevens times in a row. While rucks were contested it not being a full tackle game, but this didn't prevent Alena Saili fracturing one of her shoulders.[71]

The squad participated in the 2021 Oceania Women's Sevens Championship in Townsville against Australia, Fiji and the Oceania Barbarians. New Zealand won the tournament. This was the final playing chance for players to gain selection before the team would be trimmed to 16 for Tokyo.[73] Kelly Brazier attended the tournament but was unable to play due to flu. She then had a hamstring injury, which put her in doubt for Tokyo. While she wasn't back to 100% by the end of the tournament she was selected.[74]

2020 Tokyo Olympic Games


The New Zealand Women's Rugby Sevens team for the Tokyo Olympics was: Michaela Blyde, Kelly Brazier, Gayle Broughton, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Stacey Fluhler, Sarah Hirini (captain), Shiray Kaka, Tyla Nathan-Wong, Risaleaana Pouri-Lane, Alena Saili, Ruby Tui and Portia Woodman. The travelling reserves were Jazmin Hotham, Terina Te Tamaki and Tenika Willison (who was the designated 13th team member), while the non-travelling reserves were Shakira Baker, Dhys Faleafaga, Manaia Nuku, Mahina Paul and Cheyelle Robins-Reti.[75] Michaela Blyde and Shiray Kaka had both been reserves at Rio.[76] Normally while all 13 members of a team travel to a tournament only members of the final named 12 are allowed to play, but because of Covid the rules at Tokyo allowed any of the officially named 13 to play, with all of them receiving a medal if the team won one. Willison ended up playing in the game against Great Britain and Russia, in place of Brazier and Blyde, respectively.[77]

Sarah Hirini was selected to join Hamish Bond in being New Zealand's flagbearers at the opening ceremony in Tokyo.[78] Due to a racing the next day Bond was replaced by David Nyika. Due to Covid restrictions on how many could enter the Olympic Village at a time eleven of the players and management including Hirini were due to fly from Townsville in order to ensure Hirini would be able to attend the opening ceremony. They would be joined later by the rest of the team. After their first flight was cancelled the eleven missed their connection in Brisbane, which led to their 24-hour pre-departure tests expiring. Eventually a way was found of getting Hirani accompanied by Woodman to Tokyo in time to participate in the opening ceremony.[79]

New Zealand beat Kenya. In the next pool game Great Britain raced to a 21-nil lead before being beaten 26–21. They then beat Russia 33-0 and then beat them again in the quarter-final 36–0.

In the semi-final the Black Ferns were faced by an much improved Fiji, who up until that time had never beaten New Zealand. Within 90 seconds Broughton scored for New Zealand to give a 5- nil lead. Fiji answered with a try by Vasiti Solikoviti to lead 7–5 at half-time. Resumption of the game after half-time saw Solikoviti score another try to increase the lead to 12–5. Nathan-Wong then equalized with a try under the goal posts. Fluhler scored what was an unconverted try before Fiji scored in the corner to equalize, but Viniana Riwai was unable to convert the try. With the score drawn at 17-all the game was forced into extra time, during which Broughton who had been bought back onto the field to replace Brazier scored the winning try.[80] The final score in favour of the Black Ferns was 22–17.

The team then beat France in the final 26–12 after leading 19–5 at halftime.[81]

Upon their return to New Zealand the entire team isolated for 14 days in a managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facility before being released into the general population.

2021–22 Sevens Series Season


New Zealand's participation in the 2021-22 season was disrupted by the team missing the first four tournaments due to travel logistics and travel-related restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.[82][83]

The team returned the season with Cory Sweeney continuing as head coach, Stu Ross and Ed Cocker as assistant coaches and Crystal Kaua as skills coach/performance analyst.[84] The absence of New Zealand for two-thirds of the season allowed Australia to dominate, winning four of the six tournament and thus the season title. New Zealand won only the last tournament of the season.

In June 2022 New Zealand hosted and won the 2022 Pacific Four Series.

2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games


In June 2022 the team was announced to represent New Zealand in the rugby sevens tournament at the 2022 Commonwealth Games. It consisted of Michaela Blyde, Kelly Brazier, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Sarah Hirini [captain], Stacey Fluhler, Jazmin Hotham, Shiray Kaka, Tyla Nathan-Wong, Risaleaana Pouri-Lane, Alena Saili, Niall Williams, Tenika Willison and Portia Woodman. The travelling reserves were Terina Te Tamaki and Mahina Paul, while the non-travelling reserves were Shakira Baker, Tysha Ikenasio, Manaia Nuku and Ruby Tui.[85] Eleven of the players had been members of the team that had participated in the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

Prior to the commencement of the games the team attended a training camp in Scotland.

After topping their pool unbeaten, the team lost their semi-final match against Australia 12-17 and eventually won the bronze medal in the playoff against Canada for third, 19–12.[86][87]

2022 World Cup


With Shakira Baker, Tysha Ikenasio and Tyla Nathan-Wong unavailable due to injury the team for the 2022 World Cup held in Cape Town in September 2022 was Michaela Blyde, Kelly Brazier, Stacey Fluhler, Sarah Hirini (captain), Jazmin Felix-Hotham, Shiray Kaka, Jorja Miller, Risaleeana Pouri-Lane, Alena Saili, Niall Williams, Tenika Willison and Portia Woodman. The travelling reserves were Manaia Nuku and Mahina Paul. Miller was making her debut for the team.[88] The team lost in the final to arch-rivals Australia, 22–24, which allowed them to add the World Cup to their Commonwealth Games and 2021-22 world series titles and thus claim a rare Triple Crown.[89]

2022-2023 Seven Series Season


Initially the 2022-23 season commenced with New Zealand (despite three tries from Michaela Blyde) losing to Australia in the final in the season opener in Dubai in early December 2022. This loss could have been explained by the absence of Sarah Hirini, Portia Woodman, Stacey Fluhler, Ruby Tui and Theresa Fitzpatrick who were resting after playing for the fifteen-a-side Blacks Ferns team in the World Cup. Under the captaincy of Tyla Nathan-Wong the Dubai tournament witnessed the debuts of Tysha Ikenasio, Kelsey Teneti and Manaia Nuku, with the appearance of Jorja Miller in her first World Series tournament.[90] Other team members were Niall Williams, Michaela Blyde, Kelly Brazier, Jazmin Felix-Hotham, Terina Te Tamaki, Shiray Kaka, Risaleaana Pouri-Lane and Mahina Paul.

Again captained by Tylka Nathan-Wong the same team then turned the tables on Australia by beating them in the final of the next tournament at Cape Town.[91][92] Up until this point Australia had dominated Sevens in 2022, winning the Commonwealth Games, World Cup and the Dubai tournament.

The third tournament in the series, was held in Hamilton, New Zealand with all of the Black Ferns world cup secondments (with the exception of Ruby Tui) available to booster the team's firepower in front of family and New Zealand supporters. The team won at Hamilton and all of the remaining tournaments in the series to make six tournament wins out of seven, having won 36 consecutive matches. Michael Blyde was the series second highest try scorer with 43, Stacey Fluhler fourth equal with 30 and Portia Woodman eighth equal with 24. Tyla Nathan-Wong was the second highest points scorer and Michaela Blyde the third highest.

At the 2023 World Rugby Sevens Series Awards, Jorja Miller was named rookie of the year, while Blyde, Fluhler, Hirini and Nathan-Wong were named as members of the 2023 women's dream team.[93]

In recognition of them being crowned the 2022-2023 Sevens champions the team won the team of the year award at New Zealand's 2023 Halberg Awards.

2023 Oceania Sevens Championship


As they had already qualified for the 2024 Tokyo Olympics New Zealand elected to send a development team (made up of a mix of contracted and development players) to the 2023 Oceania Women's Sevens Championship held in Queensland from 10 to 12 November 2023. The team consisted of: Reese Anderson, Dhys Faleafaga, Theresa Fitzpatrick (co-captain), Tysha Ikenasio, Shiray Kaka, Jorja Miller, Manaia Nuku, Grace Steinmetz, Kelsey Teneti, Terina Te Tamaki, Olive Watherston, Tenika Willison (co-captain).[94]

To allow other teams from Oceania to qualify for Tokyo New Zealand and Australia (who had already qualified) played each other in a dedicated pool. Of the four games that they played Australia won three, with another being drawn. Australia then prevailed in the playoff-stage which consigned New Zealand to third place following them winning their game against Papua New Guinea, 20–0.

2023-2024 Seven Series Season


Compared with previous seasons, this season which was renamed as the World Rugby SVNS Series featured alignment of both the men's and women's calendars with eight tournaments. The top eight placed teams based on cumulative series points at the conclusion of the seventh tournament then competing in a "winner takes all" Grand Final tournament.

The team announced for the first tournament of the season (held at Dubai from 2–3 December) consisted of Michaela Blyde, Kelly Brazier, Jazmin Felix-Hotham, Stacey Fluhler, Sarah Hirini (captain), Shiray Kaka, Jorja Miller, Manaia Nuku, Mahina Paul, Risaleeana Pouri-Lane, Alena Saili, Tenika Willison and Portia Woodman-Wickliffe.[95] Prior to the Dubai tournament the team as per tradition spent time in Abu Dhabi to acclimatize ahead of the Dubai Sevens. Here they participated in the inaugural Abu Dhabi Sevens Festival held in late November 2023, which was also attended by Brazil, Canada and France.[95] Each team at the event played two games, New Zealand beating Brazil 41-0 and then in the final, France 24–12.[96]

Initially the Dubai tournament didn't start well with captain Sarah Hirini having to score a late try in their first game to create a 19-14 winning margin and thus prevent an upset defeat to South Africa. They then overwhelmed Great Britain 43–7 at the expense of Sarah Hirini being ruled out of the rest of the tournament after injuring her right knee during the game. Despite her loss the team went on defeat Fiji 29–21 in the last game of pool play before beating Brazil 26–14 in the quarterfinal and then Canada in the semifinal.[97][98][99] In the final despite three tries from Jorja Miller, New Zealand was beaten 26–19 by their arch rivals Australia.[98] The tournament was notable for the team's loss in the final bringing an end to their record of 41 consecutive women series wins which had commenced after their loss to Australia in the 2022 Dubai final and for Kelly Brazier scoring her one hundredth try in the quarterfinal win over Brazil in Dubai.[98][99]

At the second tournament of the season held in Cape Town on 9–10 December 2023 the team lost 24–12 in the semi-final to France and finished the tournament in third place after beating the USA 10–9 in the play-off. The tournament was notable for Michaela Blyde becoming the second women to score 200 tries in the HSBC international sevens competition.[100]

After winning all of their pool games at the third tournament of the season, which was held in Perth on 26–28 January 2024, New Zealand was beaten 14–24 by Australia in their quarter-final match and went on to come fifth in the tournament after beating France 10–14.

On 9 February 2024 the squad for the remainder of the 2023–24 season and for the Paris Olympics was announced as Michaela Blyde, Kelly Brazier, Dhys Faleafaga, Jazmin Felix-Hotham, Stacey Fluhler, Sarah Hirini, Shiray Kaka, Tyla King (née Nathan-Wong), Tysha Ikenasio, Justine McGregor, Jorja Miller, Manaia Nuku, Mahina Paul, Risaleeana Pouri-Lane, Alena Saili, Theresa Setefano (née Fitzpatrick), Kelsey Teneti, Terina Te Tamaki, Tenika Willison and Portia Woodman-Wickliffe.[101] Notable additions to the squad were the debut of 17 year old Justine McGregor and the return of Dhys Faleafaga following the birth of her twin sons.

At the fourth tournament of the season, which was held in Vancouver on 23–25 February 2024 they emerged from pool play with three consecutive victories, scoring the most tries and conceding the least to give a points difference of +101.[102] They progressed past Spain and Canada to the final where assisted by three tries from Portia Woodman-Wickliffe, they bet France 35–19 to claim their first tournament of the season.[103] Michaela Blyde and Shiray Kaka were selected for the tournaments dream team. The tournament was notable for being the team being the first in sevens series history of either sex to play in fifty semi-finals.[104]

At the fifth tournament of the season, which was held in Los Angeles on 2 and 3 March 2024 New Zealand triumphed over Australia 29–14 in the final assisted by third tries from Michaela Blyde and Australia being reduced for a period to six on the field by the sinbinning of Maddison Levi.[105] The tournament was notable for Portia Woodman-Wickliffe playing her fiftieth international tournament[106] and for Tyla King overtaking Ghislaine Landry during New Zealand's 40–0 win over Brazil to become the highest women points scorer in the history of the sevens series.[107] Blyde scored a total of 12 tries[108] over the course of the tournament and together with Jorja Miller and Woodman-Wickliffe was selected for the tournaments dream team.

At the sixth tournament of the season, which was held in Hong Kong on 5–7 April 2024 New Zealand triumphed over United States 36–7 in the lopsided final assisted by third tries from Michaela Blyde.[109] The tournament was notable for Blyde playing her fiftieth international tournament.[110] New Zealand's path to the final was notable for them receiving their first pool stage defeat of the 2023–24 season when they were beaten 26–21 by France.[111]

Despite Sarah Hirini and Kelly Brazier still being unavailable due to injury New Zealand won all their matches at the seventh tournament of the season, which was held in Singapore on 3–5 May 2024. Despite Tyla King (née Nathan-Wong) and Shiray Kaka becoming unavailable following injuries in the quarterfinal against Great Britain, the team still had the depth to triumph in the final over Australia 31–21, assisted by third tries from Michaela Blyde.[112] This allowed Blyde to increase her score of three tries in a world series final to six.[113] Jorja Miller was named player of the final.[112] The tournament was notable for Portia Woodman-Wickliffe scoring her 250th try during the game against Ireland, plus she also scored a try in the final, bringing her up to a record 36 tries in Sevens finals, ahead of Blyde with 32 and Charlotte Caslick next with 13.[114] The points gained at Singapore allowed New Zealand to claim the Sevens league title for 2023–24 with 126 points from 36 wins (assisted by 192 tries) compared with Australia's 124 points from 34 wins (assisted by 185 tries).[113]

At the season's grand final held in Madrid on 31 May–2 June 2024, New Zealand lost to Canada in pool play but wins against Great Britain and the USA were sufficient to allow them to progress to the semi-finals where they lost during the last minute to Australia, 19–21. In the playoff for third they beat Canada 26-14 and thus avoided this tournament being the first time that they would have lost three games at a tournament since Houston 2013.[115] The tournament was notable for Stacey Fluhler scoring her one hundredth try in the seven series during the game against Great Britain.

2024 Paris Olympic Games


The New Zealand Women's Rugby Sevens team for the Paris Olympics as announced on 20 June 2024 is: Michaela Blyde, Jazmin Felix-Hotham, Sarah Hirini, Tyla Nathan-Wong, Jorja Miller, Manaia Nuku, Mahina Paul, Risaleeana Pouri-Lane, Alena Saili, Theresa Setefano, Stacey Waaka and Portia Woodman-Wickliffe with the travelling reserves being Tyhsa Ikenasio, Kelsey Teneti and Tenika Willison.[116] Kelly Brazier, Dhys Faleafaga, Justine McGregor and Terina Te Tamaki were selected as non-travelling reserves.[117]

Tournament records


Rugby World Cup Sevens


The Black Ferns Sevens have competed in all four World Cup Sevens for the Women's, and have made the final in all four tournaments. They have won two World Cups and have been runners-up twice.

Year Round Position Pld W L D
  2009 Final   6 5 1 0
  2013 Final   6 6 0 0
  2018 Final   4 4 0 0
  2022 Final   4 3 1 0
Total 2 Titles 4/4 20 18 2 0

Summer Olympics


New Zealand have played in 2 Summer Olympic Tournaments and have made the final in both competitions, but have a split record of 1-1.

Year Round Position Pld W L D
  2016 Final   6 5 1 0
  2021 Final   6 6 0 0
  2024 Qualified TBD
Total 1 Title 2/2 12 11 1 0

Commonwealth Games


The Black Ferns Sevens have played in 2 Commonwealth Games Sevens Tournaments. They have made the Final once and would go on to win that tournament but lost in the semi-finals in the next one before placing 3rd overall.

Year Round Position Pld W L D
  2018 Final   5 5 0 0
  2022 Bronze medal match   5 4 1 0
Total 1 Title 2/2 10 9 1 0

Oceania Women's Sevens Championship


New Zealand have been the Oceania Women's Sevens Champions 4 times, while they have been runners-up 2 times and have been 3rd placed three times as well. They did not compete in the 2015 and 2016 tournaments, also in 2020 which was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and in 2022.

Year Round Position Pld W L D
  2008 Final   6 5 1 0
  2012 Final   6 6 0 0
  2013 Semi-finalist   6 4 2 0
  2014 Final   7 7 0 0
  2015 did not attend
  2017 Final   5 5 0 0
  2018 Final   5 4 1 0
  2019 Semi-finalist   5 3 2 0
2020 No tournament
  2021 Round-robin   6 6 0 0
  2022 Competed as split teams
  2023 Round-robin   6 1 4 1
Total 4 Titles 9/12 52 41 10 1

Women's Sevens Series


The Black Ferns Sevens have dominated the Women's Sevens Series by winning 8 out of the 11 tournaments, and have been runners-up twice before placing 5th in a disrupted 2021–22 season. The 2020–21 season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Series Season Events Position Points
I 2012–13 4   74
II 2013–14 5   96
III 2014–15 6   108
IV 2015–16 5   80
V 2016–17 6   116
VI 2017–18 5   90
VII 2018–19 6   110
VIII 2019–20 5   96
2020–21 Cancelled due to impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.[118]
IX 2021–22 6 5th 38
X 2022–23 7   138
XI 2023–24 8   126
Total 8 titles 11/11 1,072



Current Squad


On 20 June, the squad was named for the 2024 Paris Olympic Sevens tournament in France.

Travelling Reserves: Tysha Ikenasio, Tenika Willison, and Kelsey Teneti.

Squad updated to: 20 June 2024

  Black Ferns 7's
# Player Position Height Weight Date of birth Matches Points scored
3 Stacey Fluhler Fullback 1.73 m (5 ft 8 in) 73 kg (161 lb) 3 November 1995 151 500
4 Sarah Hirini 1.68 m (5 ft 6 in) 72 kg (159 lb) 9 December 1992 255 435
6 Michaela Blyde Right Wing 1.65 m (5 ft 5 in) 65 kg (143 lb) 29 December 1995 218 1,237
7 Tyla Nathan-Wong Fullback 1.65 m (5 ft 5 in) 59 kg (130 lb) 1 July 1994 269 1,448
10 Theresa Fitzpatrick Outside Centre 1.68 m (5 ft 6 in) 75 kg (165 lb) 25 February 1995 161 105
11 Portia Woodman-Wickliffe Left Wing 1.72 m (5 ft 8 in) 75 kg (165 lb) 12 July 1991 241 1,280
13 Jazmin Felix-Hotham Openside Flanker 1.72 m (5 ft 8 in) 67 kg (148 lb) 2 July 2000 99 155
33 Manaia Nuku 1.69 m (5 ft 7 in) 68 kg (150 lb) 3 September 2002 50 43
72 Alena Saili 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in) 77 kg (170 lb) 13 December 1998 123 215
77 Risi Pouri-Lane Outside Centre 1.64 m (5 ft 5 in) 63 kg (139 lb) 28 May 2000 111 374
81 Mahina Paul 1.65 m (5 ft 5 in) 63 kg (139 lb) 19 April 2001 54 115
83 Jorja Miller Fly Half 1.67 m (5 ft 6 in) 71 kg (157 lb) 8 February 2004 83 240
Olympic Games Paris 2024

Notable players


Player records


The following shows leading career New Zealand players based on performance in the Women's SVNS. Players in bold are still active.

Award winners


The following New Zealand Sevens players have been recognised at the World Rugby Awards since 2013:[119]


Name Years
Darryl Suasua 2000, 2009
Sean Horan 2012–2016
Allan Bunting [a] 2016–2021
Cory Sweeney 2019–Present


  1. ^ Allan Bunting and Cory Sweeney were appointed as Co-coaches in 2019 through until the Tokyo Olympics.


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Preceded by Halberg Awards – New Zealand Team of the Year
Succeeded by
Preceded by Lonsdale Cup