New Zealand's Sevens stars return to bolster squads in Perth

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Tyla King (nee Nathan-Wong) is back with the Black Ferns Sevens after seven months off the field, during which time she got married and also played rugby league.

One of the benefits of the league experience was learning how to cope with players running straight at her.

"It was something I needed to do- to get away and experience something new, a new environment, a new coaching style, to rejuvenate and recharge the batteries a little, and it has done that.

She enjoyed being back with the team and starting her 13th season of Sevens at a venue in Perth she had not been to before.

Coach Cory Sweeney said the side took lessons from the Dubai and Cape Town tournaments.

They were gritty in Dubai and played well in Cape Town until coming up against France.

Given previous experience with workloads in big seasons, the side was not at its competitive peak in those tournaments but was on course to grow through the Series to hit their best form as the Series and season progressed.

"We want to make sure we are at our very, very best come Madrid and the Olympics and this is another stepping stone towards that. We're comfortable with where we are at but we have to create some momentum over the next few weeks."

It had been tricky over the holidays when they faced balancing their fitness work with family time.

"We're in a new year, but we want to ensure we stamp our mark for 2024 this weekend. We've got a mix of experienced and youthful players coming through, which will be our strength for the rest of the year.

"Perth is a chance to stamp our mark going into an Olympic year with six months to go."

Sweeney said injured captain Sarah Hirini was through the first phase of her recovery from knee surgery, walking normally and working with medical staff through her rehabilitation.

All Blacks Sevens captain Dylan Collier, who is also returning with the honour of captaining the side for the first time, said since their setbacks in the first two rounds of the Series, they had been concentrating on trying to regain the level they achieved in last year's Series.

It was a case of remembering and repeating the small factors that contributed to that success and not thinking things would just happen.

"You've got to grind away at that little stuff that people don't see so that it comes out on the field. The confidence is still there, we always think we're the best in the world."

Coach Tomasi Cama said the Olympic Games was the obvious goal for the side, but they also wanted to perform well in the SVNS series.

"We've got players who are coming back from injuries, back from NPC last year, so we are trying to prepare well, allowing us to go and play well and then it's using the world series to help us prepare."

That would involve working on different combinations of players while still wanting to win individual tournaments.

"This weekend is another opportunity, we've got a good squad here, with experience, so hopefully, we will do the jersey proud this weekend."

That would involve minimising opportunities for opponents and playing to their strengths.

"We've got Fiji and Samoa [in their pool] and they always bring their A game against us, so we have to be on from France first up."


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