With the lure of an Olympic medal in two months, All Black and Blues winger Caleb Clarke and Chiefs outside back Etene Nanai-Seturo have today returned to the All Blacks Sevens programme in a bid to be selected for the Tokyo games.
Both players had originally been released from Super Rugby duties for the 2020 season in the pursuit for Olympic glory but returned to their clubs when Covid-19 resulted in the postponement of the Games.
Clarke went on to star for the Blues in Super Rugby Aotearoa and was subsequently selected for the All Blacks, playing five Tests in a break-through year.
High Performance Sevens Manager Tony Philp said having the support of the clubs, and the All Blacks, in the build up to the Olympics was a boost for the sevens programme.
“Every time Caleb and Etene have been in our environment they have impressed so it is fantastic that they were keen to return to have a crack at making the Olympic team and that the clubs also supported that decision,” said Philp.
Vilimoni Koroi was released from the Highlanders to spend the season with the All Blacks Sevens and has been based with the team in Tauranga since the conclusion of Mitre 10 Cup last year.
The players will likely have two tournaments to fight for Olympic selection, with a series against Australia later this month before an Oceania hit out in June.
All Blacks Sevens Coach Clark Laidlaw said he’s delighted to have the players back.
“They’ve been a big part of our team over the past two or three years, so it feels quite natural them coming back into our environment. The communication and connection has stayed strong in this period so now its about realigning them with how we are doing things and get them back up to speed with our game.
“They are both fit, fast and strong so physically they’ll slot in, our game has evolved a bit in the past six months though so some of the technical and tactical stuff will be really important to get right.”
Caleb Clarke said he was enjoying being back with the All Blacks Sevens team.
"Going to the Olympics would be a once in a lifetime opportunity so I'm looking forward to get back into training and putting my best foot forward," said Clarke.