$2m set aside to tempt All Blacks to Olympics

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All Blacks pair Liam Messam and Conrad Smith have indicated they would be keen to represent the New Zealand sevens side at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

It is believed that the NZRU will set aside close to NZ$2m in order to cover any All Blacks looking to partake. In addition to Messam players such as Sonny Bill Williams and Ben Smith have been suggested as potentials for the team in two years time.

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Messam recently confirmed his interest saying;

”My major goal is to get to the Olympics and I’ll be 32 by then,” Messam said. “So I know I need to do all the recovery work and I need to eat what I need to to be able to train every day.”

Conrad Smith, 32, also expressed his interest, saying: “There’s obviously certain forwards that don’t give it much thought, but for the last year or so certainly some of the backs and some of the guys that have been involved before talk about how they’d love to be involved and why not?”

“It’s a pretty unique opportunity to get an Olympic gold. That would be something most guys would jump at.”

Ben Smith, however, is unsure whether he will dedicate a section of his career to Sevens having already run out in the 2010 Commonwealth Games. ”I’m not too sure. It’s two years away. I’m just worrying about the [Rugby] Championship coming up. A lot of people will make decisions over the next few years. I really enjoyed my time with the sevens and I’m sure a lot of people will want to be part of it.”

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NZRU CEO Steve Tew has said that winning the 2016 Olympics is one of his goals as part a a strategic four-year plan set out in 2012;

“We’ve said we will pick the best team possible to go win a gold medal in Rio, but the debate is what makes that team up?” Tew told Radio Sport. “Is it a lot of players who have been only involved in sevens for a long period of time? Or is it a mix of players who have played both versions of the game?

“In the end it is going to come down to how many and for how long? My sense is we will have some fifteens players who could make a very valuable contribution and transition in a relatively short period of time and others who would need longer.”

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