Rugby: All Blacks stars snub shot at Olympic sevens glory at Tokyo 2020

New Zealand rugby player Sevu Reece (left) in action against Argentina in Buenos Aires, on July 20, 2019.
New Zealand rugby player Sevu Reece (left) in action against Argentina in Buenos Aires, on July 20, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

WELLINGTON (AFP) - New Zealand Rugby revealed Thursday (Aug 22) that no current All Blacks will represent their country in sevens at next year's Tokyo Olympics.

The mouth-watering prospect of Ngani Laumape or Sevu Reece carving up opposition defences at the Games was kicked into touch by sevens coach Clark Laidlaw.

Told earlier this year that he could select only one player from each of New Zealand's five Super Rugby clubs, Laidlaw opted for four uncapped youngsters, all of whom have previously played sevens.

They are Caleb Clarke (Auckland Blues), Etene Nanai-Seturo (Waikato Chiefs), Salesi Rayasi (Wellington Hurricanes) and Scott Gregory (Otago Highlanders).

"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," NZR high performance chief Mike Anthony said.

"We also wanted to ensure that the Super clubs were not significantly disadvantaged."

Laidlaw said in May that he had identified several All Blacks who had the potential to play sevens but was waiting to see if they were interested.

It follows a messy selection process before the Rio Games, when Laidlaw's predecessor Gordon Tietjens failed to lure All Blacks such as Beauden Barrett, Ardie Savea, Aaron Cruden and Ben Smith into his squad.

In a major shock, the 12-time world sevens champions failed to win a medal in Rio and Tietjens resigned, complaining that NZR had blocked his access to top players.

Star centre Sonny Bill Williams did make the trip to Brazil but ruptured an Achilles tendon as New Zealand suffered a loss to Japan in their opening match.

The All Blacks' bid for a third straight Rugby World Cup, and fourth overall, opens in Japan next month.

A cluster of senior players are set to retire after the tournament and All Blacks management will be keen to minimise disruptions to the remaining playing group next year.