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New Zealand women off to strong start in Oceania

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James Mortimer, rugby.com.au and oceaniarugby.com     03 Aug 2012     Getty Images

In recent months Horan and selectors have toured the country thanks to an exciting new initiative by the New Zealand Rugby Union to ramp up their talent identification programme - by extending it to young ladies hoping to become New Zealand Women's Sevens representatives and look to an appearance at Rio in four year's time.

While it is fitting that the important next phase takes place during the 2012 London Olympics, Horan and his team are making sure they are taking careful steps, with the 2013 Women's World Cup the next target for the New Zealand team.

With a mix of Black Ferns among the young hopefuls, the 12-woman squad is as follows:

Shakira Baker
Kendra Cocksedge
Moana Forbes
Sarah Goss (vc)
Charlene Halapua
Linda Itunu
Huriana Manuel (c)
Kayla McAlister
Tyla Nathan-Wong
Hazel Tubic
Ruby Tui
Portia Woodman

The tournament commenced today, with all matches played at Churchill Park, Lautoka.

New Zealand was drawn up against Tonga, the Cook Islands and Fiji, and were able to progress through unbeaten.

They defeated Tonga 54-0, Cook Islands 27-0, and Fiji 19-7.

One of New Zealand's big rivals, Australia, have also recorded three impressive victories in the pool stage of the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013 qualifying tournament.

The Australian Women’s Sevens opened the tournament with a compelling 48-0 win over Solomons.  They went on to defeat emerging talents Papua New Guinea 29-7 in a game which was much closer than the score reflected, before going on to beat Samoa 34-0.

While both Australia and New Zealand have already qualified for Rugby World Cup Sevens in Russia, the tournament provides the Australasian women a good platform from which to launch their 2012-2013 season.

For Australia, it is also the first step on Australia’s path to defending its title of world champions, having won the inaugural Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2009.

The Australians were seeded first in Pool A, alongside Samoa, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands. Pool B features New Zealand, Fiji, Cook Islands and Tonga.