Hirini will complete the HSBC World Series with the Black Ferns Sevens in Toulouse before taking up her contract at the Yokkaichi based Mie PEARLS club. Following the Taiyo Seimei Women’s Sevens Series 2023 Hirini will return to New Zealand to prepare for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games with the Black Ferns Sevens.
“I am stoked to be able to have the opportunity to head over to Japan and play for the MIE PEARLS. Japan is an amazing country, from their culture to their people it will be an incredible experience, and one which my husband, Connor, and I are exceptionally grateful for.
“This would not be possible without the support from Cory, my sevens sisters and New Zealand Rugby and for that I am incredibly thankful. Playing abroad will allow me to continue to grow as a player, experience a new playing environment, different coaching style and refresh ahead of an exciting year with the Black Ferns Sevens.”
New Zealand Rugby General Manager Professional Rugby and Performance Chris Lendrum said flexibility within New Zealand Rugby’s contracting model provided valuable growth opportunities for players.
“Sarah signed her first professional contract with the Black Ferns Sevens ten years ago in 2013. Over this time, she has amassed a long and illustrious list of accolades. While this arrangement is a first in the women’s space it is similar to sabbaticals offered to some of our senior All Blacks who have played in Japan. The flexibility we have in our contracting model allows for our top players across both the men’s and women’s professional game a chance to refresh, experience and engage in a different rugby environment, but remain committed to New Zealand Rugby, which is a good result. We are looking forward to seeing her back in black when she returns and ready for the 2024 Paris Olympics.”
Black Ferns Sevens Head Coach Cory Sweeney said the sabbatical would be great experience for Hirini ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics.
“Sarah is invaluable to our team’s success, both on and off the field. She dedicates a huge amount of time to the Black Ferns Sevens jersey. This opportunity allows her to reset and refresh, through experiencing a new team environment and culture, which will be a great thing for her and the team ahead of our Olympic campaign.”