Shakira Baker attacking for the Black Ferns Sevens. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

RUGBY

JAKE BELESKI
jake.beleski@age.co.nz

Former Greytown School and Wairarapa College student Shakira Baker has made the Black Ferns Sevens squad for the upcoming Dubai Sevens, to be held from November 29-30.

Injuries also mean Baker will be expected to take on more of a leadership role within the group and should see more game time.

The team will be without key players Portia Woodman and Niall Williams for the tournament, after injury ruled both players out of contention.

Their absence has the return of Gayle Broughton and Stacey Waaka, who will meet the squad in Dubai straight from the Black Ferns XV’s tour in France, while Youth Olympic Games captain Risi Pouri-Lane is also named in the 13-player squad.

Coach Allan Bunting said travelling without Woodman and Williams was a loss to the team both on and off the field, but it also presented opportunities for other members of the squad.

Woodman ruptured her Achilles at training early last week and had to undergo surgery, while Williams is recovering from a knee injury.

“It is a big loss but at the same time it’s a chance to develop our depth and we’ll see Shakira Baker, Stacey Waaka and Alena Saili step up and get more game time,” Bunting said.

“Gayle comes back in and she is looking sharp as usual and Stacey has been with the Black Ferns. She still has one test match to play and then she’ll join us, have a chance to recover, and then get back into sevens.

“Risi has been with us for a year now and has been really growing as an athlete.

“She’s coming off a great campaign at the Youth Olympic Games, so we are looking forward to her getting out there and having a crack.”

The Black Ferns Sevens opened the 2018/2019 season with victory at the Glendale Sevens in USA last month and Bunting said the team is hoping to build from that tournament.

“This season the focus is on gaining Olympic qualification and doing that the best we can so we need to start well in Dubai and play each game as if it’s a final.”

They are set to face Kenya, Russia and Ireland in pool play.

Black Ferns Sevens squad: Shakira Baker, Michaela Blyde, Kelly Brazier, Gayle Broughton, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Sarah Goss, Tyla Nathan-Wong, Risi Pouri-Lane, Alena Saili, Terina Te Tamaki, Ruby Tui, Stacey Waaka, Katarina Whata-Simpkins.