Waldrom selects his men’s Olympics squad
Scott Waldrom 30 Jun 2016 Getty Images
Currently the men’s team has just finished a week-long trial camp in Titch’s home town of Tauranga and the women have just returned from a simulated Olympic condition camp in Fiji, both squads must now sit and sweat it out until Sunday’s Olympic squad announcement.
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While we wait on the official team naming we might as well fill in some time by trying to match minds with the world’s greatest sevens coach and attempt to pick the men’s team. Firstly, when looking at a sevens squad it is made up of four key on field roles – Strikers, Playmakers, Finishers and Ruckmen.
Strikers are your bigger ball carriers who help get go forward and attract defenders to create space somewhere else on the field, they normally play prop or midfield. Playmakers pretty much describe the role exactly, these are the players who have the best footwork and passing skills in the team, an eye for space and play half back and first five-eight (or fly half if you’re from the Northern Hemisphere).
Finishers are your players with speed and have an eye for the try line, obviously always a winger but can also be a midfielder or even a prop like when Tim Mikkelson is playing in the forwards. Finally a Ruckman is your hardworking forward who plays Hooker but normally has the skills of a back, they are always in support of the ball carrier and are focused on retaining the ball and keeping the game flowing.
If we take this idea into our selections then in a squad of 12 we are looking at two Ruckmen, four Strikers, three Playmakers and three Finishers. So let’s see who will fit these roles and who we would select.
#NZ7s stars @Sc0ttCurry & Tim Mikkelson were on hand for the @nzolympics uniform launch last night!#roadtorio pic.twitter.com/ri2hHcipxi— NZ7s (@nz7s) June 29, 2016For me, the ruckman is an important role and requires a little bit of each role but also needs to have an ability to read the game and anticipate what’s going to happen next. My choices would be Scott Curry and DJ Forbes, they both bring great sevens rugby wisdom and plenty of experience to complement those fifteens players who are in the squad.
My strikers start with Sonny Bill Williams who will bring some versatility to this role and can play in both the forwards and backs. With a core role to attract defenders there isn’t going to be a bigger name in rugby than SBW in Rio so he can expect a lot of attention not just off the field but also on it. This will create some space elsewhere on the field for the speedsters. Akira Ioane has been in great form and is outstanding with ball in hand, he’s stepped up when the pressure has been on and we can expect him to continue this into the Olympics. Liam Messam brings more big game experience to the squad and will come in handy for a team that has never experienced anything to the level of the Olympics before.
Although this squad will have Commonwealth Games and World Cup Sevens experience, this will be on a whole new level and can provide an easy distraction if you let it. Dylan Collier is my last choice around the striker role, he brings a constant to the team and played in every tournament this year except Wellington when new All Black Ardie Savea was originally looking at being involved. He is a strong attacking weapon and with his wing experience from fifteens brings a finishing ability also.
Playmakers is probably the hardest role to fill. In the past we have been blessed with some of the best playmakers in the game with the likes of Tomasi Cama and Amasio Valence, but with today’s modern game being less about the playmaker needing to do so much of the work themselves and more about their ability to direct play around the field, they need to be confident in themselves and be able to lead the team.
This is why I have gone with Augustine Pulu, Kurt Baker and Gillies Kaka. Pulu has worked hard this year to try to make the Olympics and I believe that hard work will pay off not only for himself but for the team by having him involved. Baker brings not only the cheesiest double thumbs up try celebration but more importantly his ability to rattle the opposition while still leading the team around the field, this may not seem like an important skill but when you are facing teams like Fiji who will certainly be a top contender you need someone who will get in their faces and attempt to put them off their game. Finally Kaka will bring that sevens experience and has the potential to bamboozle any defence on his day.
Finishers don’t get much better than Tim Mikkelson at the moment and with 174 tries to his name (the sixth most tries on the all-time world series leader board) it’s easy to see how important he is to the team, whether it’s in the forwards or backs he is one of the first names in any starting team for such a tournament. Rieko Ioane is probably the next one on the list after Mikkleson and has been this season’s standout performer in the limited tournaments he’s played in. It’s remarkable to think he has scored 50 tries in the World Series already after only a season and a half. Finally Pita Ahki rounds out my twelve, with his finishing ability mixed with great footwork he would be a great asset to any team.
So there’s my twelve men’s players and I’m sure most of you will have your own opinion as avid rugby fans, so who would be in your team?
1 Scott Curry
2 DJ Forbes
3 Sonny Bill Williams
4 Akira Ioane
5 Liam Messam
6 Dylan Collier
7 Tim Mikkelson
8 Kurt Baker
9 Augustine Pulu
10 Gillies Kaka
11 Rieko Ioane
12 Pita Ahki
Check out my next story as we try match teams with Sean Horan and his selection of the New Zealand Women’s team.
Scott Waldrommade his name as a tearaway openside flanker for Taranaki, the Hurricanes and the Chiefs from 2004-2012. Despite being pegged behind All Blacks legend Richie McCaw in the number seven jersey, Waldrom made one appearance for the All Blacks in the historic encounter against Munster in 2008. As a sevens specialist, Waldrom also played in seven tournaments for the All Blacks Sevens from 2004-10 and is currently the Rugby Development Officer for the Avalon rugby club in Wellington.
The Views expressed in this article are those of the contributor and not New Zealand Rugby.