The Cook Islands Rugby Union has appointed former New Zealand squad member Crystal Kaua as head coach of the national women's sevens team, saying a change was necessary less than three months out from the final Olympics qualifying tournament.
Kaua replaces Matt Atiga, who guided the Cook Islands to a third place finish at November's Oceania Championship in Auckland, which earned them a place at the final Olympic repechage event in Dublin.
Cook Islands Rugby Union CEO Ben Koteka said Atiga's contract was terminated last month following a difference in opinion over the team's preparations for that event.
"It was just a little issue to do with in terms of trying to get the team up (to Europe) early, that's all - just with the whole sort of lead in...It was just one of the changes which we had to make and really grateful to be able to receive a real quality applicant like Crystal as well as she will be assisted by her husband Brent too, so I think that makes for a nice little combo moving forward, as the girls prepare for the repechage tournament to be played up in Dublin."
Ben Koteka said it's been difficult to find sevens events to help the Cook Islands team in their preparations, with most of their squad based in New Zealand, where it's the start of the fifteens rugby season.
"But we've just been very fortunate to be invited to participate in a four-team tournament, which will be played in May and thank you very much to (former Cook Island men's coach) Chad Tuoro of the New Zealand Rugby Union. The girls will be playing two tournaments in May - the first one I think will be on the 7th and 8th and the second one will be played three weeks later on the 28th and 29th of May...that will be played up in Auckland. Some of the details are just coming through - the girls will be Cook Islands, Samoa and two New Zealand women's sevens teams will be playing in a four-team tournament, hopefully playing about six games each weekend, so that should help with preparation."
The winner of the final Olympic repechage event in Dublin will claim the last remaining berth in the women's sevens draw in Rio.
New Zealand, Australia and Fiji have already qualified from Oceania.