Topic: Rugby

All Blacks Sevens set sights on Olympic Gold

By James Perry

The World Champion All Black Sevens team arrived home this morning following their World Cup win in San Francisco.

The players will now enjoy a  sixweek break before returning to focus on the 2020 Olympic Games. 

The All Blacks Sevens team beat England 33-12 in the final in San Francisco on Monday (NZT), becoming the first male team to successfully defend a World Cup Sevens title, and only the second side ever, having been beaten to that distinction 24 hours earlier by the Black Ferns Sevens team.

The Clark Laidlaw-coached side set themselves two lofty goals for this year; to win both the Commonwealth Games and the Rugby Sevens World Cup.

Having beaten Fiji 14-0 on the Gold Coast in April, co-captain Tim Mikkelson says, "We knew we had one more job to do, and I suppose to set two goals like that is pretty high and to achieve them is awesome."

Veteran player Kurt Baker, who also featured in the 2013 final in Moscow, also against England, says the two wins are another step toward newer, bigger goals.

"I think that's the key, is just having something within you you want to achieve.  I've still got plenty more things I want to achieve as a sevens player," he says at Auckland International Airport.

While their focus was on winning the two pinnacle events this year, they had occasional slip-ups on the World Series circuit, where they finished third overall, winning one tournament in Cape Town.

Baker says, "I suppose at the end of the day we go out to win everything, but it just happened that the two good ones we wanted, we got."

Trael Joass, of Ngāpuhi, who scored a try after the final hooter, says it was a "wicked way to put the icing on the cake."

The emotion was evident with his uncharacteristic reaction after dotting down.  He says, "I was telling the boys I normally don't get up like that after scoring a try."

There has been a closing of the gap between the likes of New Zealand and Fiji in recent years, with nations such as South Africa, USA, Kenya and Samoa all winning tournaments on the World Series Circuit.

Baker thinks the team's biggest challenge will be continually evolving, but he believes they have players who "are really keen on growing".

He also believes that, with the likes of Laidlaw and Liam Barry at the helm, the team has "a wicked management staff that try to stay a step ahead".

While some of the players will be returning to their ITM Cup sides in coming weeks, the rest of the squad will have a six week break before regrouping and making another charge for the World Series crown in Dubai in November.