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About New Zealand / January 21, 2017

Renee Wickliffe is one of two members of the provincial champion Counties Manukau team who has been given a New Zealand ...Richard Heathcote

Renee Wickliffe is one of two members of the provincial champion Counties Manukau team who has been given a New Zealand contract for 2017.

Eight new players have scored New Zealand women's sevens contracts for the 2017 season.

Coach Allan Bunting named a 20-women squad on Thursday which included 18 full contracts and two training contracts, with one further spot to be filled at a later date.

There are some familiar names among the newly contracted players, with Theresa Fitzpatrick making the Olympic team in 2016, Rebekah Cordero-Tufuga playing for the side at the end of 2016 and Renee Wickliffe an experienced Black Fern.

Other new caps include Cheyelle Robins-Reti, Tenika Willison and Alena Saili, with Lyric Faleafaga and Crystal Mayes getting training contracts.

Big names missing from the squad include Olympic squad members Kayla McAlister (pregnant) and Huriana Manuel (retired) and 2016 Black Ferns player of the year Selica Winiata.

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Bunting was pleased with the squad he had assembled.

"There is a lot of potential in this team, " he said. "The high level of performance at the National Sevens tournament on the weekend made selections very hard.

"The higher standard of coaching at provincial union level is really making our job difficult, which is great, but we are lucky because they are delivering quality rugby players which will make coaching the squad easier."

"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."

He was confident the young squad would form the building blocks for their 2020 Olympics campaign.

"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.

"One player, Lyric Faleafaga, is in her last year of school and Alena Saili has just finished school last year. It's great to see amazing talent coming through at such a young age, which is exciting for the future of the team. 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 squad goes into camp in Wellington from January 23.

"The focus for the next couple of weeks, heading into Sydney, will be continuing on from what we started in Dubai, which is building our foundations and bringing the new members up to speed on what we have learnt."

New Zealand women's sevens 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, 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.

Source: www.stuff.co.nz