Nationally ranked sprinters, provincial netballers, age-grade AFL stars, and New Zealand Secondary Schools rugby representatives are among the 96 players named to take part in the inaugural Red Bull Ignite7 event this November.
New Zealand Rugby (NZR) today unveiled the 48 men and 48 women who have been selected to take part in a new high-performance programme designed to uncover the next generation of sevens superstars.
Red Bull Ignite7 will be broadcast live on Sky Sport 1 from Auckland’s The Trusts Arena, Waitakere on Saturday, 24 November.
More than 500 applicants from Invercargill to Kerikeri signed up for an event that will see three men and three women win the chance to train with the All Blacks and Black Ferns Sevens squads in 2019.
Among the women’s players selected are a pair better known for their netball feats in Renee Savai'inaea (Pulse) and Mererangi Paul (Mystics), former New Zealand Universities hockey player Grace Steinmetz, and Taranaki women’s senior basketball guard Iritana Hohaia.
The ranks of the men’s squads include 2017 New Zealand Under 18 AFL Player of the Year Carlos Donnell-Brown, New Zealand’s second fastest senior 400m runner Thomas Woods, former junior Warriors rugby league fullback Mark Graham, and 2018 New Zealand Secondary Schools loose forward Niko Jones.
NZR High Performance Sevens Manager Tony Philp said the selection process had provided a valuable and encouraging glimpse into New Zealand’s untapped pool of athletic talent.
“We were absolutely thrilled with the quality and variety of athletes who came forward and that made it a tough group to select,” Philp said. “It’s a very diverse group in terms of their backgrounds and sporting talents and it’s going to be interesting to see how quickly they can transfer those skills to sevens at the highest level.”
Philp and his team of selectors have split the players into eight squads (four men’s and four women’s) for the event, with Team Power, Team Surge, Team Inferno and Team Bolt competing for the inaugural Red Bull Ignite7 trophy.
New Zealanders can watch the tournament live and will have the chance to experience the ups and downs of the athletes’ journeys via an exclusive Sky TV documentary to screen in December this year on both Sky Sport and Prime.
Sky TV Director of Sport Richard Last said the project represented an exciting new direction for rugby coverage in New Zealand.
“Red Bull Ignite7 is a unique and innovative rugby event and will provide sports fans with a raw and exclusive glimpse into the trials and tribulations of some of our brightest athletes as they chase their sporting dreams.
“We believe it will be a highly entertaining tournament during which viewers will witness some future stars emerge before their eyes.”
The Red Bull Ignite7 tournament will be the culmination of five days of intensive physical testing and screening for an elite group of athletes who will be exposed to NZR’s high performance sevens programme.
The head coaches of the respective teams include former All Blacks Sevens player Lote Raikabula and Black Ferns legend Anna Richards and an array of New Zealand’s up and coming provincial and college sevens coaches.