Otago pair in development teams

Taylor Haugh in action against Kaikorai last year. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Taylor Haugh in action against Kaikorai last year. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Players from the South have been selected in New Zealand development teams set to head to Japan next week.

Otago outside back Taylor Haugh has been picked in the men's team while Otago Spirit outside back Amy du Plessis has been picked in the women's side.

Kendall Buckingham, who played for Southland Girls' High School, and has played sevens in Japan, has also been picked in the women's development side, although she now plays in Canterbury.

The teams will leave for Okinawa at the weekend for matches against the Japanese national sevens teams next week.

New Zealand Rugby sevens development manager Chad Tuoro said the development programmes were a crucial part of the national structure.

"Our development programmes are promoting players into the professional sevens environment and it's vital to have that next tier of players ready to step up into the world series," he said.

"Being able to give these players international experience is an incredible opportunity and going to Okinawa gives us a look at where our sevens teams will be based for the Olympic Games."

The development teams are set to play five matches in two days against the Japanese men's and women's teams.

The Black Ferns sevens development team will also take part in an invitational tournament in Auckland next month.

Haugh made his All Black Sevens debut in Cape Town in December while newly contracted player Niko Jones, the son of All Black flanker Michael Jones, will also travel with the team.

Wellington's Losi Filipo has also been selected. Filipo was the centre of a storm in 2016 after it emerged he was discharged without conviction after a serious assault.

He was dumped by Wellington Rugby but played for the side last year.

In a statement, Nicki Nicol, who leads NZR's Respect and Inclusion programme, said Filipo's selection was approved by NZR, and came more than three years after he began a rehabilitation programme.

"He has shown remorse, commitment and determination to make positive changes and rugby continues to play an influential role in Losi's life. NZR does not condone violence and is actively investing in programmes that support safer communities."

National sevens development teams 

Men: Losi Filipo, Dan Fransen, Taylor Haugh, Jacob Kneepkens, Peni Lasaqa, James Little, Josh Moorby, Curtis Reid, Adam Simpson, Te Puoho Stephens, Te Rangatira Waitokia, William Warbrick

Women: Kendall Buckingham, Amy du Plessis, Dhys Faleafaga, Tynealle Fitzgerald, Tysha Ikenasio, Isla Norman-Bell, Rina Paraone, Mererangi Paul, Cheyelle Robins-Reti, Kennedy Simon, Grace Steinmetz, Kiki Tahere, Kalyn Takitimu-Cook.

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