Captain Forbes returns to bolster New Zealand challenge

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 March, 2011, 12:00am

Experience counts in Hong Kong and the return to the fray of New Zealand's evergreen captain DJ Forbes will come as a huge relief for coach Gordon Tietjens.

Forbes missed the last leg of the IRB Sevens World Series in Las Vegas due to a hamstring injury and his absence was felt as New Zealand were bundled out in the semi-finals.

But his return to fitness will raise the stock of New Zealand, who aim to consolidate their presence at the top of the standings by winning the Cathay Pacific/Credit Suisse Hong Kong Sevens this weekend.

'It has been a good start to the season considering we lost around nine players from last year's side,' Tietjens said. 'I have probably had more young players in this team than any other team in the years I have been with the side. I had eight new players who went to the first three tournaments so I'm very happy with how we have gone.'

With the experienced Forbes back, Tietjens will breathe easier. The only other players in the squad that played last year in Hong Kong are Tomasi Cama, Lote Raikabula, Tim Mikkelson and Toby Arnold.

'Hong Kong is always a great tournament to play and this is one we really want to win as there are more points on offer with 24 teams participating. The players know this is a must-win if we want to move ahead of England on the leaderboard,' Tietjens said.

New Zealand, who have won two of the four legs in the series so far, share top spot in the standings with England on 80 points.

Tietjens will unveil his latest crop of exciting ball players including backs Declan O'Donnell and Frank Halai. O'Donnell has scored 20 tries, just a couple behind the leading try-scorer, South Africa's Cecil Afrika.

'The younger players are starting to step up and challenge the incumbents for spots in the side so no selection is ever clear-cut,' said Tietjens.

New Zealand: Toby Arnold (Bay of Plenty), Tomasi Cama (Manawatu), Scott Curry (Bay of Plenty), DJ Forbes (captain, Counties Manukau), Rory Grice (Waikato), Frank Halai (Waikato), Bryce Heem (Auckland), Solomon King (North Harbour), Tim Mikkelson (Waikato), Declan O'Donnell (Waikato), Buxton Popoalii (Otago), Lote Raikabula (Manawatu).