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July 04, 2020

Matthews and Collett Banned From Olympics

MUNICH, West Germany, Sept. 8 — The International Olympic Committee barred today two United States…
July 04, 2020

Vincent Matthews and Wayne Collett: A Most Casual Protest With Most Striking Consequences

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July 04, 2020

Athletes Will Be Banned From Protesting at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. But the Games Have…

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced new guidelines on Thursday that ban athletes from making…
July 04, 2020


The IOC stands for non-discrimination as one of the founding pillars of the Olympic Movement,…
July 01, 2020

Lewis highlights racial discrimination and gender inequality in sports

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June 29, 2020

Black Lives Matter movement brings ex-IOC President Brundage under new scrutiny

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June 27, 2020

Opinion: Equality still remains an elusive goal

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Thursday, 02 July 2020 20:58

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High-profile All Blacks must decide within the next four months whether to pursue a gold medal at next year's Olympic Games.

New Zealand Rugby plans to unveil its first squad, which will feature an amalgamation of sevens specialists, Super Rugby stars and All Blacks who have signalled interest, in late May.

A wider squad must also be submitted to the New Zealand Olympic Committee by August 5 - one year out from the games in Rio de Janeiro. Up to 26 players will then be confirmed in the squad announced after the Rugby World Cup in October. That squad will be whittled down to 12 players for the Olympics.

While speculation that Warriors playmaker Shaun Johnson would switch codes has faded, Gordon Tietjens' wish-list is expected to include brothers Julian and Ardie Savea, Liam Messam, Sonny Bill Williams, Charles Piutau, Ben Smith, Hosea Gear and Victor Vito. Of that group, only Williams has no previous sevens experience.

NZR general manager rugby Neil Sorensen and player relationship manager Ben Castle, the former Chiefs prop, will canvas several of those players in the coming months.

"Ben and I are going around in the next couple of months to talk to players Titch may be interested in about how it might work in 2016 in terms of whether they can play any Super Rugby and how many sevens tournaments they'd have to play," Sorensen said. "It's going to be personalised to a large extent.

"The Super Rugby teams need to know sooner than later so they can talk to other players. Knocking it off in May this year gives everyone certainty.

"You're looking at a mix of specialist gurus, the experts who have played sevens for a few years, and a smattering of other players like Sonny Bill. I certainly don't see it being eight All Blacks and four other guys. It won't work like that."

Tietjens, All Blacks management, Super Rugby coaches and the NZR board held discussions recently about the difficult juggling act they face in 2016.

With $2.4 million pledged towards the men's sevens team over the next two years and $2m for the women during the same period, double Olympic gold is high on the agenda.
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But with Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Ma'a Nonu, Ben Franks, Jeremy Thrush, Tony Woodcock, Conrad Smith, Keven Mealamu and Charlie Faumuina all expected to leave the New Zealand scene, along with other mid-tier talent, after the Rugby World Cup, the All Blacks will confront a challenging rebuilding phase. Coach Steve Hansen will have a lot on his plate ahead of Wales' three-match tour in June next year and the high-profile tour by the British and Irish Lions in 2017.

Striking a balance in priorities creates clear dilemmas.

Players such as Piutau must essentially choose between cementing their spot in the post-World Cup All Blacks outfit or attending the Olympics.

Details are still being worked through but it is understood those that opt for the sevens route will miss six to eight weeks of Super Rugby, depending on their level of sevens experience, conditioning and natural abilities. They are also not likely to be available for the All Blacks until the end-of-the-year tour to the northern hemisphere.

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie is, however, confident Williams will turn out for the franchise next year.

"There's no doubt going to an Olympic Games is pretty special," Rennie said. "If he commits to sevens he'll still play some Super Rugby. We just won't have full access to him.

"With Sonny he couldn't just play sevens and sit out for three weeks. We've certainly been talking to Titch around that. It's going to be the same for all the franchises. If you've got some guys involved then you'll get some access to them."

NZR is also keen to ensure that those who chase a gold medal are not left out of pocket.

"If they are currently earning $10 and they get picked to go to Rio then they'll earn the same," Sorensen said. "It's just a matter of how we supplement that for their Super Rugby franchise."