19 Apr 2019

New faces in record-chasing Black Ferns Sevens

2:25 pm on 19 April 2019

A new-look New Zealand women's sevens team can set a new mark for successive wins at this weekend's World Series tournament in Japan.

Sarah Hirini and her teammates celebrate winning the HSBC World Rugby Sevens in Sydney,. Womens Cup Final match between New Zealand and Australia, 2019, Spotless Stadium, Saturday 3rd February 2019. Copyright Photo: David Neilson / www.photosport.nz

Photo: Photosport Ltd 2019

Rhiarna Ferris and Dhys Faleafaga, 18, have been named to make their World Series debuts in Kitakyushu, with half a dozen Black Ferns Sevens regulars, including Portia Woodman, Kelly Brazier and Michaela Blyde, unavailable because of injury and illness.

Assistant coach Cory Sweeney has also stepped into the top job, with Allan Bunting granted leave for health reasons.

"Injury provides opportunity. We are totally confident with the group of players we have in Japan, in that they can continue performing at a high level," Sweeney said.

"There is a lot of unknowns in terms of new players; they need to go express themselves and they might take a few people by surprise.

"t's an exciting weekend for the Black Ferns Sevens and for the future of this team."

New Zealand captain Sarah Hirini says Ferris and Faleafaga have fitted in seamlessly.

"Obviously they're new to the World Series, but they've been around our programme for a long time now," Hirini said.

"They've been with us for ages, they do exactly what we've been doing for the last few months so I'm just really looking forward to them getting their exposure on the World Series and the rest of the world seeing what they have to offer."

The competition is resuming 11 weeks since the last tournament in Sydney, with the Black Ferns Sevens having won all three events this season.

They also won the last three tournaments last season and are on a 36-match winning streak, one short of the World Series record set by the New Zealand team in the 2014/15 season.

"It's been a long time and the girls are looking forward to getting back into it this weekend," Hirini said.

The Black Ferns Sevens can equal their record mark if they beat hosts Japan in their opening pool match and can surpass it by beating Russia.

New Zealand will round out pool play against France.