Kurt Baker to continue his rugby career on the sevens field, inking two year deal with New Zealand
Kurt Baker has given New Zealand Sevens the double thumbs up.
The Manawatū fullback has committed himself to the abbreviated form of the game by signing on for two years with the national sevens side.
"I have had a good crack at 15s, but looking forward hopefully sevens can achieve some goals for me," he said.
"Obviously I have a past in sevens. It is a team that I am pretty passionate about. I have had some successes and some disappointments as well.
"The way I see it, I still have a couple of unachieved goals I want to tick off over the next two to three years."
Next year there is a Sevens World Cup and Commonwealth Games and there is the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
Baker believed the team's record last year when they did not win a tournament was impacted by their 2016 Rio Olympics campaign.
"You could say it was a hangover from Rio. I am mates with a lot of those boys and I think it was really tough on them. No matter what people say, they have really high expectations of themselves in that team.
"It was a tough year for a lot of those established guys, but hopefully they can hang in there and I can jump back in with them and try and wreak a bit of havoc back on the circuit."
He was confident new coach Clark Laidlaw was the right man to lead the team.
"I have worked with Clark before when I was at Taranaki so I know him pretty well. I really like what he is trying to do for the programme."
Baker, 28, left New Zealand rugby last year after being a surprise omission from the New Zealand sevens for the Rio Olympics.
But he cut short what was planned to be a two-year stint with Italian side Zebre earlier this year. He said it did not work out as planned.
"It got to the point where I had to make the decision, do I stay and chase it up or try and move on and recreate my rugby career.
"I am at a point now where I can't let things like that happen."
Cutting short his contract was not an easy process with the Manawatū Rugby Union and New Zealand Rugby helping get his case through World Rugby.
He finally got the release he needed after missing the first match of Manawatū's provincial season.
"It took a lot longer than a lot of people thought, but I am pretty grateful that the people who were working on it kept working on it. I suppose that is the one thing after all that process that I appreciate - the players are pretty well looked after in New Zealand."
Baker will start his fourth game of the season for Manawatū against against Waikato on Saturday.
"I am bloody loving it here. It is good to be back where it all started and in a way, probably a pay back for the effort they put into me early on."
This week will be Baker's 20th game for Manawatū to go with 57 games for Taranaki and 10 games for the Highlanders.
He has played 28 World Series sevens tournaments for New Zealand.
Waikato v Manawatū
Saturday, 2.35pm, FMG Stadium, Hamilton
Manawatū: 15 Kurt Baker (Kia Toa), 14 Newton Tudreu (Kia Toa), 13 Lewis Marshall (FOB-Oroua), 12 Jason Emery (Kia Toa), 11 Willy Ambaka (FOB-Oroua), 10 Jade Te Rure (Kia Toa), 9 Kayne Hammington (Feilding), 8 Brice Henderson (COB), 7 Antonio Kiri Kiri (OBM), 6 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis (c) (Feilding), 5 Jackson Hemopo (Kia Toa), 4 Tom Parsons (Te Kawau), 3 Michael Alaalatoa (FOB-Oroua), 2 Tim Cadwallader (COB), 1 Fraser Armstrong (OBM). Reserves: 16 Tom Crozier (Sumner - Canterbury), 17 Tuki Raimona (COB), 18 Sean Paranihi (FOB-Oroua), 19 Liam Mitchell (Te Kawau), 20 Harrison Brewer (Te Kawau), 21 Jamie Booth (Varsity), 22 Hamish Northcott (Varsity), 23 Ambrose Curtis (OBM).
Waikato: 15 Zac Guildford, 14 Bailyn Sullivan, 13 Pita Ahki, 12 Tevita Taufui, 11 Sevu Reece, 10 Sam Christie, 9 Harrison Levien, 8 Adam Burn, 7 Mitch Jacobson, 6 Luke Jacobson, 5 James Tucker, 4 Leva Fifita, 3 Sefo Kautai, 2 Hame Faiva, 1 Loni Uhila. Reserve: 16 Samisoni Taukei'aho, 17 Latu Talakai, 18 Atu Moli, 19 Sam Caird, 20 Jordan Manihera, 21 Pele Cowley, 22 Matty Lansdown, 23 Tyler Campbell.
Referee: Nick Briant.
TAB odds: Waikato $1.42, Manawatu $2.85.
LAST FIVE MATCHES
2010: Lost 27-25 at Palmerston North.
2011: Won 54-20 at Palmerston North.
2014: Won 22-20 at Hamilton.
2015: Lost 28-21 at Palmerston North.
2016: Lost 19-10 at Hamilton.