Veteran Lote Raikabula pays price for poor form

Last updated 12:49 14/03/2014
Lote Raikabula
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TOO STRONG: Lote Raikabula touches down for New Zealand against Samoa.

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Marty McKenzie is the new cap in the New Zealand Sevens squad to play tournaments in Tokyo and Hong Kong this month, after veteran Lote Raikabula was dropped.

Coach Gordon Tietjens named his 12-strong team this afternoon, captained by DJ Forbes and including promising young Aucklander Akira Ioane.

McKenzie will make his debut at the Tokyo tournament next weekend, having been made a contracted player for the first time this season.

It is hoped he can add depth to the play making roles in the team, with Tomasi Cama out.

"Marty has a very good rugby brain, he is very fit, a great defender and it's an opportunity to expand our base," Tietjens said.

"With Tomasi Cama out and getting on in age so we need to be building depth and Marty is going to give us that in his position at half back."

Raikabula has played in more than 60 tournaments since making his debut in 2006, and has struggled to find form this season.

He was a little off the pace for Wellington at the national championships in January, and the growing depth in the sevens programme means there is plenty of competition for his place.

"Lote hasn't found his form of last year and he needs to find it, but you have to reward players who perform.

"The forwards we have picked, including Sam Dickson who is coming back from suspension, gives us a very big forward pack, with Akira Ioane in there too and Bryce Heem and Scott Curry who are probably the form players.

"Lote is by no means ruled out of the calculations moving forward, because he is a very good player."

New Zealand Sevens team: Scott Curry, Ambrose Curtis, Sam Dickson, DJ Forbes (c), Bryce Heem, Gillies Kaka, Akira Ioane, Ben Lam, Marty McKenzie*, Tim Mikkelson, Sherwin Stowers, George Tilsley.

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