Highlanders to lose new signing to ABs Sevens campaign

Scott Gregory. Photo: Getty Images
Scott Gregory. Photo: Getty Images
New Highlanders signing Scott Gregory will make a fleeting appearance for the side next season.

Gregory (20) was announced yesterday as one of four Super Rugby players who have committed to the New Zealand sevens programme for next year which will include the Tokyo Olympics.

The Northland utility back will be joined by three other Super Rugby players: outside backs Caleb Clarke (Blues), Etene Nanai-Seturo (Chiefs) and Salesi Rayasi (Hurricanes) in the sevens campaign.

All players at Super Rugby level were asked a few months ago whether they would be interested in joining the sevens campaign and it appears not many showed an inclination to get involved.

No All Blacks have declared their interest and an Olympic medal does not appear to have much of a draw to many players.

For the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, All Blacks Sonny Bill Williams and Liam Messam made themselves available for sevens but failed to make much impact as the New Zealand team came up short in the pursuit of gold, finishing fifth.

Obviously tight forwards would not cut the mustard for the sevens game, but there are plenty of quality loose forwards and backs who could reach the standard needed to play sevens.

The All Black jersey obviously holds sway for most top players, especially when a new All Black coach will be picking his first side next year.

New Zealand Rugby head of high performance Mike Anthony said the four players had all been in the sevens environment previously.

NZR first gauged individual interest and then All Blacks sevens management outlined the programme before a commitment was sought.

"We have worked very closely with all the Super clubs to ensure we could support those players who were genuinely keen to be involved in the Tokyo Olympic Games. We also wanted to ensure that the Super clubs were not significantly disadvantaged," Anthony said.

"The four players selected have all previously played for the All Blacks Sevens, which speaks volumes to the culture that [coach] Clark Laidlaw and his team have really built within that environment. It's been a key focus of the management to offer young players world class rugby experience, so to have these four put their hand up to return is a great result."

Clarke, Nanai-Seturo and Rayasi will join the All Blacks Sevens squad after their Mitre 10 Cup commitments at the end of this year, while Gregory will assemble with the Highlanders until March 2020.

"One of the biggest considerations in this process has been the team environment. We have a group of contracted players that have won the Commonwealth Games Gold and Rugby World Cup Sevens last year, so we're very mindful that those coming in need to complement that group," Anthony said.

Rayasi was a member of the World Cup winning All Blacks Sevens team in 2018, while Nanai-Seturo won Commonwealth Games Gold with the team last April.

The Super Rugby sides will be able to bring in additional players for the players switching to sevens.

Gregory will be with the Highlanders until March next year, so he will have a full pre-season and will also be available to play a couple of games at the start of next year's Super Rugby season.


 

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