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Preview: Northern Regions Sevens tournament

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James Mortimer     07 Dec 2014     Getty Images

Usually the Northerners play a major role in determining the makeup the national finalists, but the winds of change have swept throughout the region, with the defending regional champions possessing a changed squad.

Auckland Sevens coach Waisake Sotutu has named four players to make their debut at the tournament as the blue and whites have had to absorb the loss of key players.

Ben Lam, Melani Nanai, Leon Fukofuka and Akira Ioane are all unavailable through Investec Super Rugby commitments, while Mitch Karpik has been ruled out through injury.

Waikato have some ITM Cup stars to call upon, with fullback Wharenui Hawera captaining a side that features former New Zealand Sevens representatives Johnathan Malo and Luke Masirewa.

North Harbour, skippered by Luke Hamilton, have some talent in the form of Samson Siosiua Fualao and Curtis Reid, but they are among most of the field who have called in new faces.

The men’s side of the draw features two pools, with Auckland, North Harbour, Counties and a ‘bye round’ in Pool A, while Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Thames Valley and Northland feature in Pool B.

The top five teams will qualify for the Nationals, with Bay of Plenty, the tournament hosts, automatic qualifiers.

The Bay had some valuable hit out time in Rotorua recently, playing an unofficial tournament against Taranaki, Auckland and Thames Valley.

The Women’s side of the draw features a very powerful Waikato squad, with WPC captain Teresa Te Tamaki leading a line up which features New Zealand Sevens reps Chelsea Alley, Honey Hireme and Chyna Hohepa

Auckland, vying for their third consecutive Northern Women’s title, have nine players who featured for the Storm during the WPC.

Linda Itunu and Justine Lavea are the prominent names while three players will make their debuts with almost ten players unavailable due to Dubai commitments and injury.

Counties, Bay of Plenty and North Harbour round out the Women's sides.

The top four women’s teams from the tournament will qualify for the National Sevens.

The 2014 Northern Region Sevens will feature 32 games of pool play and finals over both divisions.

Games get underway at 10.00am with the first of the finals kicking off at 4.40pm.

Entry into Waikato Stadium for the day is a gold coin donation, while matches will be broadcast on Sky Sport.

To view the full draw, click here.