Tokyo Olympics: All Blacks star Caleb Clarke named as travelling reserve in sevens squad

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All Blacks winger Caleb Clarke has only been named as a travelling reserve in the sevens squad for the Olympics.

New Zealand’s men’s and women’s teams, the All Blacks sevens and the Black Ferns sevens, announced squads of 12 and three travelling reserves on Friday morning.

Clarke’s omission from the main 12-man squad comes after his switch from 15s after Super Rugby Aotearoa finished in early May.

Caleb Clarke has been named as a travelling reserve for the All Blacks sevens’ Olympic squad.

Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

Caleb Clarke has been named as a travelling reserve for the All Blacks sevens’ Olympic squad.

The Blues star opted to skip Super Rugby Trans-Tasman and All Blacks tests to go for gold in Tokyo.

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The 22-year-old from Auckland will still be with the squad and could be called up for the three-day Olympic tournament if there are any form or injury concerns.

However, at this stage, he is outside the team whose campaign starts on July 26.

Another convert from 15s, Highlanders outside back Vilimoni Koroi, missed the cut after joining the sevens programme last summer once the Mitre 10 Cup finished.

All Blacks sevens coach Clark Laidlaw said it was the toughest team selection he has been involved in.

“Going to Olympics is the pinnacle of four or five years work. We were conscious of that as coaches and selectors, so we made sure we were really clear on how we want to play the game, where the players were at, and picked the best team to go forward,” Laidlaw said in a statement.

“When you’ve only got 12 players for one tournament, and it could be 40 degrees with high humidity, having players who can rotate and share the load throughout a weekend and still nail their core role is important. We’ve selected backs who can change positions and that is genuinely important.

“We don’t usually name a team a month out from a tournament, and we’ve got some players that got dinged up a little bit in the weekend. All the players in our contracted group need to continue to prepare as if they are going to play and in all the conversations we’ve had, they certainly understand that.”

Sarah Hirini, one of New Zealand’s flagbearers for the opening ceremony, will be captaining the Black Ferns sevens in her second appearance at the Olympics.

Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

Sarah Hirini, one of New Zealand’s flagbearers for the opening ceremony, will be captaining the Black Ferns sevens in her second appearance at the Olympics.

Both Kiwi teams are reigning World Cup and Commonwealth Games champions, but they will be chasing a first Olympic gold medal in Tokyo.

At the inaugural Olympic sevens tournament at the 2016 Rio Games, the Black Ferns sevens collected a silver medal after losing the final to Australia.

The All Blacks sevens finished fifth in Rio after a shock defeat to Japan in the pool stage. Fiji then knocked them out in the quarterfinals and went on to win the country’s first Olympic gold medal.

New Zealand’s sevens squads for the Tokyo Olympics

All Blacks sevens: Tim Mikkelson (co-c), Scott Curry (co-c), Dylan Collier, Tone Ng Shiu, Sam Dickson, Andrew Knewstubb, Ngarohi McGarvey-Black, Sione Molia, Kurt Baker, Joe Webber, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Regan Ware. Travelling reserves: William Warbrick, Caleb Clarke, Amanaki Nicole.

Black Ferns sevens: Portia Woodman, Sarah Hirini (c), Ruby Tui, Tyla Nathan-Wong, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Stacey Fluhler, Michaela Blyde, Alena Saili, Risaleaana Pouri-Lane, Kelly Brazier, Gayle Broughton, Shiray Kaka. Travelling reserves: Tenika Willison, Jazmin Hotham, Terina Te Tamaki.

MORE TO COME

Men’s pools (starting July 26)

Pool A: New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, South Korea.

Pool B: Fiji, Great Britain, Canada, Japan.

Pool C: South Africa, USA, Kenya, Ireland.

Women’s pools (starting July 29)

Pool A: New Zealand, Russian Olympic Committee, Great Britain, Kenya.

Pool B: Canada, France, Fiji, Brazil.

Pool C: Australia, USA, China, Japan.