Led by coach Clark Laidlaw and experienced co-captains Tim Mikkelson and Scott Curry, the All Blacks Sevens squad is bigger than ever, with Super Rugby players brought in as the squad was set to build towards the Tokyo Olympics.
A long pre-season ended when the team travelled to their first two tournaments in Dubai and Cape Town.
In stark contrast to the same tournaments a year earlier – where injuries forced a call to get Etene Nanai-Seturo released from Chefs pre-season duties to cover the significant injury toll, Laidlaw had a strong, fit group to select from which showed in Dubai.
The All Blacks Sevens went through Day One undefeated and progressed to the Final against South Africa. The 15-0 loss didn’t accurately depict what was an amazing spectacle in the Final, both Scott Curry and Tone Ng Shiu made the Tournament Dream Team, recognising their uncompromising efforts across the two days.
A week later in Cape Town the script was similar, buoyed by Sam Dickson’s 50th tournament, the team powered through pool play and looked strong defeating Fiji 24-7 in the semi-final. Facing home team South Africa in the Final, in front of 50,000 fans provided an incredible stage, and the All Blacks Sevens came from behind, with a late try to Ngarohi McGarvey-Black to seal the 7-5 win.
A month later in front of a home crowd in Hamilton, the All Blacks Sevens set about impressing again. Their opening match was a 47-0 win over Wales, followed by two further solid wins. A re-vamped structure meant no quarter-finals, and the side advanced to a semi-final against trans-Tasman rivals Australia.
Trailing at halftime, it was tries to Regan Ware and Dylan Collier that set up a Final appearance against a physical French side.
The All Blacks Sevens were dominant in the Final, Regan Ware dotted down twice, while co-Captain Scott Curry grabbed a hat-trick in the 27-5 win.
The following week in Sydney, the conditions were sweltering, and the All Blacks Sevens were handed a tough pool assignment with Wales, Fiji and Kenya. With the amended format again, a loss to Fiji (eventual winners) meant the best the team could play for was fifth place. Again, they met Australia and got the job done 24-7.
The last two tournaments before the season break saw a new-look side travel to USA and Canada. A number of players were getting their first run of the season as Laidlaw shared the playing-load in a busy season.
Tim Mikkelson surpassed DJ Forbes as the most capped All Blacks Sevens player, racking up his 90th and 91st tournaments in America.
Back to the regular format, the All Blacks Sevens advanced to the play offs and defeated France in the quarter-finals before being shut out against South Africa (eventual winners) in the semi-finals. A bronze-place play off against now-regular opposition Australia was tough fought, a conversion the only thing separating the teams in the 21-19 victory.
The following week in Vancouver, the All Blacks Sevens produced one of their strongest tournaments of the season. Keeping Kenya and Spain scoreless in the first two pool matches, before fighting off a plucky Irish team and advancing to a quarter-final against Fiji.
The All Blacks Sevens were composed and structured against Fiji, winning 17-5 with Joe Ravouvou’s extra-time chip and chase try likely to be remembered for a long time. Reversing the result against South Africa from the previous week was the next task, again done with composure and two strong tries from Caleb Clarke in the mix.
For the third tournament in a row, the All Blacks Sevens finished against Australia and despite trailing early in the second spell, late tries from Andrew Knewstubb and Joe Ravouvou secured the Vancouver title.
- The All Blacks Sevens have used 19 players this season, all have them have crossed for points.
- After six tournaments, the All Blacks Sevens lead the series with 115 points (11 points ahead of South Africa in second).
- With three tournament wins from six, it is the most successful start to a season for the All Blacks Sevens since 2011 when they won four of their first six events.
- The team has scored 858 points this season, averaging 26 points a match.
- Leading from the front, Scott Curry has made three Dream Teams this season, Tim Mikkelson has made two.
- With 15 tries this season, Tim Mikkelson has moved to third highest try scorer in series history.
- Ngarohi McGarvey-Black was named Player of the Final in back-to-back events in Cape Town and Hamilton.