New Zealand Sevens coach Clark Laidlaw has praised Caleb Clarke for his influential role in securing them the World Series title and believes the star wing can inspire the team to more success in future.
Following a comprehensive consultation process, World Rugby announced on Tuesday that the remaining Sevens Series tournaments set to take place in London, Paris, Singapore and Hong Kong have all been cancelled due to the global coronavirus pandemic, which has ended the 2019-20 season prematurely.
New Zealand – who topped both the men’s standings before the season ended because they won three of the six tournaments that were played – has accordingly been awarded the title with four rounds left in the series.
The 21-year-old Clarke was a key figure in the New Zealand squad’s consistent performances this season and has since enhanced his status as a star player thanks to his superb displays for the Blues in Super Rugby Aotearoa.
Laidlaw is adamant it’s the start of great things for him as well as for the Blues.
‘Caleb is a great advert for our team. He and the boys who have been with us for the last year are getting an opportunity [in Super Rugby Aotearoa] which is great. Most of the squad were rolling around in the mud playing club rugby last weekend and it is important we give back to our communities at this difficult time. I am hoping quite a few of the guys will get picked up in Mitre 10 squads and they want to get out there and play,’ Laidlaw said.
‘New Zealand rugby is committed to producing a team to win the Olympics and we have shown we can raise our performance and get the consistency we have strove for in our game. Our advantage is that we are playing live rugby in New Zealand and the boys will be hungry to get back to sevens.
‘In terms of building up to Tokyo, we are going to build up again and there is still a lot of uncertainty how the next 12 months will look. We have a contracted group that we will get back together before Christmas and then be in a good position to kick on. We have an opportunity to get better.
‘We have now won the men’s and women’s HSBC titles, Commonwealth Games and Rugby World Cup Sevens and we should be proud of the success of the two teams and it will be good to slow down and reflect on what has been achieved. We have, effectively, got two shots at preparing for an Olympic Games and we have been able to review everything we have done for this year and that is exciting.’
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