New Zealand sevens rep Warwick Lahmert isn't allowed to play for Taranaki in today's central regions tournament.
Taranaki coach Willie Rickards sought permission for Lahmert to play in the tournament but it was rejected by national coach Gordon Tietjens, given New Zealand's hectic schedule of late, which ended with an IRB world series win in South Africa.
His place in the squad has gone to Coastal's Rick McKenna, who travelled with the team to Palmerston North last night.
Taranaki need to finish in the top five at the tournament to qualify for next month's national tournament in Queenstown, something that appears a mere formality.
Nevertheless, Rickards saw the tournament as a great opportunity to work on combinations with games against Manawatu, Wairarapa Bush and Hawke's Bay scheduled before playoff matches are held.
The first-year coach, who only hung his boots over the hook after Taranaki's Ranfurly Shield loss to Waikato, has been working with an enlarged sevens squad, along with assistant Ben Souness, since early last month. His appointment followed former coach Clark Laidlaw's decision to head back to Scotland for the summer.
"I was assistant last year and while I'm a rookie, I've had a bit of experience with the [Taranaki] programme," he said.
Rickards freely admits his squad lacks out-and-out pace after the loss of several key players from the previous two years, but he was still confident they had the foundations of a competitive side.
"It's exciting in some ways because I'm starting with my own team and I can put in different patterns and different structures and we've got a wonderful mix of experience and youth," he said.
"We know we're lacking a bit of pace and we will have to play with more structure. We have to be smart and try and nullify teams with more pace."
Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, Nemia Soqeta and Mark Atkins are likely to provide the grunt up front, while Rickards will likely use Beaudein Waaka and Telly Hemopo as playmakers with Jackson and Lewis Ormond options out wide.
Taranaki's first game is against Manawatu at 11.40am. The tournament is being televised on the Rugby Channel.
TARANAKI SEVENS: Heiden Bedwell-Curtis (captain), Jackson Ormond, Seta Tamanivalu, Nathan Hohaia, Mark Atkins, Adrian Wyrill, Liam McBride, Lewis Ormond, Beaudein Waaka, Telly Hemopo, Nemia Soqeta, Rick McKenna.
- Taranaki Daily News
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