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Manawatu sevens named for Central Region title defence

The Manawatu women’s sevens team’s bid for a rare two national title in one season steps up a gear with the Central Region Sevens in Levin on Saturday.

The tournament decides qualification and seedings for December’s nationals.

The decision earlier this year to move the annual national tournament from January to December opens the door for defending champions Manawatu to become just the second side to claim national titles twice in a calendar year.

Coach Mike Pettman has named a strong squad for the tournament, despite missing a host of key players from last year’s squad including Janna Vaughan (Auckland), Kristina Sue (unavailable) and Sarah Goss (New Zealand Sevens).

In sign of the depth of the Manawatu women’s programme, the squad for the regional tournament is still glittered with class and international experience.

Superstar captain Selica Winiata will again lead from the front and will be joined by fellow former New Zealand Sevens internationals Vaine Greig, Rebekah Tufuga, Crystal Mayes and Hayley Hutana.

The remaining core of the squad come from the Manawatu Cyclones squad, hot off a strong Farah Palmer Cup season when they made the semi-finals for the first-time including standout loose forwards Shanna Porima and Sam Tipene and first five-eighth Corrineke Windle.

Two preseason standouts have been pacey outside back Lauren Balsillie and towering forward Jessica Fagan-Pease.

Fagan-Pease’s athleticism was highlighted at last week’s Ignite Sevens programme where she topped testing in tackle power and vertical jump power.

Also in the Manawatu squad are flying wing Ruci Malanicagi and rising talent Kahurangi Sturmey.

Manawatu Women’s Sevens

Vaine Greig, Rebekah Tufuga, Crystal Mayes, Hayley Hutana, Jess Fagan-Pease, Sam Tipene, Shanna Porima, Selica Winiata, Corrineke Windle, Lauren Balsillie, Kahurangi Sturmey, Ruci Malanicagi.