New Zealand Rugby has introduced a programme which it hopes will keep New Zealand at the top of World Sevens.

The national body will scout out 48 male and 48 female athletes, with no rugby experience, to take part in a four day camp in November.

The New Zealand men’s and women’s teams defended their World Cup titles in San Francisco over the weekend.

Athletes under the age of 20 can register for the Ignite7 programme.

NZR Head of High Performance Mike Anthony said Ignite7 was designed to encourage talented athletes from all sporting codes, regardless of rugby experience, to come forward and have a go at Sevens.

“Our national Sevens teams compete at the highest level on the world stage and we want to be sure we are casting the net as wide as possible and tapping into the huge reservoir of athletic talent that exists across New Zealand.

“Ignite7 gives us the chance to do that outside of our normal parameters and we see this as taking Sevens into an exciting new era, not only for our athletes but for rugby fans too.”

Over the coming months, NZR’s High Performance Sevens coaches and trainers will vet registrations before selecting the 96 players who will assemble in Auckland from 21 November to 24 November.

The selected players’ abilities will be measured at eight physical testing stations to gauge strength, speed, skill and agility.

The four men’s and four women’s teams selected will train together for three days before competing at the inaugural Ignite7 tournament, with three male and three female players being invited to attend the 2019 national Sevens teams Development Camps.

“The selected six players will be training alongside the All Blacks Sevens and Black Ferns Sevens in the New Year,” Anthony said. “It’s a massive opportunity that will give these players access to the full benefits of NZR’s high performance system and it effectively opens the door for selection into our two national Sevens teams.”

For the women’s players, Ignite7 enhances and expands on the ongoing Go For Gold campaign which resulted in four athletes from non-rugby backgrounds – Michaela Blyde, Portia Woodman, Kayla McAlister and Gayle Broughton – representing New Zealand at the 2016 Olympic Games.

Anthony expects Ignite7 will hold wide appeal for non-rugby athletes wanting to make an instant impact and fast-track themselves into the Sevens spotlight.

“That’s an exciting prospect, but we will make sure we put the less experienced candidates through a five-week rugby-specific programme to ensure they are physically capable of safely competing with what we expect to be a gathering of the country’s best young Sevens talent.”

Although the tournament is aimed at under-20s, NZR has left one place in each of the eight teams open for non-rugby athletes who are under 23-years-old. Those players must prove they have not registered to play rugby for at least five years.

RNZ

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