WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — All Blacks winger Caleb Clarke has missed selection in the 12-man New Zealand rugby sevens squad for the Tokyo Olympics.
Clarke was named Friday as one of three traveling reserves who will accompany the team to Tokyo but will not be eligible for a medal if he doesn’t take the field.
The 22-year-old Clarke was a breakout star for the All Blacks last year but put his 15-a-side ambitions on hold this year to push for Olympics selection. He was the only All Black player to do so.
Chiefs Super Rugby fullback Etene Nanai-Seturo also stepped back from 15s this year and has made the 12-man squad.
The New Zealand team will be led by co-captains Scott Curry and Tim Mikkelson, who is its most-capped player and will be appearing at his second Olympics. He was with the New Zealand team in Rio de Janiero in 2016 which started among the favorites but failed to win a medal and Fiji took the gold.
New Zealand’s Scotland-born coach Clark Laidlaw said Clarke’s lack of versatility and recent matches counted against him.
“Caleb came in later than the rest of the squad and has a little bit less experience than someone like Regan Ware,” Laidlaw said. “And it’s really that balance between attack and defense and guys being able to play a couple of positions.”
More than half of the New Zealand women’s squad played at the Rio Games where New Zealand finished second behind Australia. The New Zealanders have won 16 of 22 World Series tournaments since 2016 and are the current World Series champions, as are the men.
Coach Allan Bunting said there was strong competition for places in the women’s squad.
“The internal competition we have has really driven this group,” he said. “We’ve got a spine that operates really well, who we have massive faith in.”
New Zealand Olympic rugby sevens squads:
Men: Tim Mikkelson (co-captain), Scott Curry (co-captain), Dylan Collier, Tone Ng Shiu, Sam Dickson, Andrew Knewstubb, Ngarohi McGarvey-Black, Sione Molia, Kurt Baker, Joe Webber, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Regan Ware. Traveling reserves: William Warbrick, Caleb Clarke, Amanaki Nicole.
Women: Portia Woodman, Sarah Hirini (captain), 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.
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