New Zealand Rugby (NZR) is recruiting now across the country, looking for 48 men and 48 women to take part in an intensive day of testing to measure their athletic skill and ability, and whether they are good enough go to on to the national squad that competes at an international level.
NZR head of high performance, Mike Anthony says the online Ignite7 recruitment process aims to build New Zealand’s Sevens talent pool and develop players to compete at Olympic and Commonwealth Games level.
The successful candidates need not even have picked up a rugby ball in their lives.
“It’s a general invitation – but some existing rugby players will be encouraged to apply.”
He said all talented athletes between the ages of 16 and 20 are invited to apply – regardless of what sporting code they come from. Up to four men and four women aged up to 23 may also be chosen, as long as they have not played rugby in the past five years.
“We are casting the net as wide as possible and tapping into the huge reservoir of athletic talent that exists across New Zealand.
“We will select 96 players, splitting them into four men’s and four women’s teams. Ignite7 will identify three men and three women to go through to the national Sevens teams Development Camps in 2019.”
In the Ignite7 recruitment video head sevens coach Chris Laidlaw says general athleticism, dominance in the air, speed – “an Olympic sprinter who can play a bit if rugby would be nice” – are key skills he’s looking for.
The applicants will be vetted and whittled down to 96 candidates who will assemble in Auckland from November 21-24, when they will be measured at eight physical testing stations to gauge strength, skill and agility. The chosen players will then train in teams for a tournament and the final six will be selected.
The successful candidates will not be paid but will get free access to a range of NZR high performance resources on and off the field, and will get an opportunity to train alongside professional players. This will directly expose these six successful players to All Blacks Sevens and Black Ferns Sevens coaches and selectors.
“[We will] give them the best possible opportunity to showcase their talents at Ignite7 and to provide world class coaching and off-field development during the four-day event,” says Anthony.
“If they are good enough, they could earn a professional contract.”
The New Zealand Rugby Players Association negotiates rugby player salaries and the New Zealand Herald reported in March that future Black Ferns will be paid annual retainers of between $15,000 and $30,000 and leading players could earn $30,000-$45,000. The newspaper said New Zealand Rugby spends about 37 per cent of its revenue – $257 million last year – on player salaries.
As well as the chance to represent their school, club, province or country, top All Black and Black Ferns sevens players get to travel to the global HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series held in such exotic venues as Dubai, Las Vegas, Hong Kong – and even Hamilton, New Zealand.