Rugby Sevens: 17yo among rookies selected by NZ Sevens before Paris Olympics

The All Blacks Sevens and Black Ferns Sevens have selected plenty of young talent in their latest squads, including rookies Jayden Keelan (Manawatu) and Justine McGregor (Wellington).   

Justine McGregor, 17, is the latest schoolgirl sensation to graduate into the Black Ferns Sevens.   

After starring for St Mary's College and Wellington in the Farah Palmer Cup, McGregor was selected as part of the Black Ferns XV squad and the New Zealand U18 Sevens team in 2023.

Jayden Keelan is tackled by Vaa Apelu Maliko.
Jayden Keelan is tackled by Vaa Apelu Maliko. Photo credit: Photosport


Black Ferns Sevens coach Cory Sweeney said McGregor has incredible promise.  

"Justine has been a standout performer in the secondary school's scene and has not taken a backward step since joining us," said Sweeney.  

"It's obvious that she has had some great support, and coaching in her conditioning and rugby. We are proud of how she has adapted in our environment and she's already putting her hand up for selection."  

Keelan, 21, joins the sevens programme by way of Manawatu, where he starred in the local club rugby scene before joining Wairarapa Bush in the Heartland Championship.  

He played a season in Spain and was due to return to the Zaragoza club, before being offered a fulltime All Blacks Sevens contract.   

All Blacks Sevens coach Tomasi Cama scouted Keelan from the College Old Boys club and has been impressed with his talent since.   

"When I saw him play, it was obvious, he has the raw skillset, understanding of the game and great footwork," said Cama.   

"What is really important in a good sevens player is work ethic. You can't shy away from the tough stuff and Jayden has the right attitude, so we think he'll become a great player for us." 

Keelan, Codemeru Vai and Fehi Fineanganofo are the newest contracted players in the All Blacks Sevens.   

Vai and Fineanganofo were brought into the squad in 2023 as injury replacements, and debuted in the series-winning season. They both pick up fulltime contracts in 2024.   

The Black Ferns Sevens also celebrate the return of Dhys Faleafaga, who - like McGregor - is also a former student of St Mary's College in Wellington. The powerful forward debuted in the black jersey in 2019 and returns to the team after the birth of her twin sons.   

While not new faces, two new names appear on the squad list, with the recently married Tyla King (nee Nathan Wong) and Theresa Setefano (nee Fitzpatrick) donning new surnames on their jerseys this season.   

Both squads will be based fulltime at Mt Maunganui and will play five more tournaments on the SVNS series, before the Paris Olympics in July. 

All Blacks Sevens squad: Leroy Carter, Che Clark, Dylan Collier, Tepaea Cook Savage, Scott Curry, Sam Dickson, Fehi Fineanganofo, Jayden Keelan, Andrew Knewstubb, Moses Leo, Ngarohi McGarvey Black, Tim Mikkelson, Sione Molia, Tone Ng Shiu, Amanaki Nicole, Lewis Ormond, Akuila Rokolisoa, Brady Rush, Roderick Solo, Payton Spencer, Xavier Tito Harris, Codemeru Vai, Kitiona Vai, Regan Ware, Joe Webber. 

Black Ferns Sevens squad: Michaela Blyde, Kelly Brazier, Dhys Faleafaga, Jazmin Felix-Hotham, Sarah Hirini, Shiray Kaka, Tyla King (nee Nathan-Wong), Tysha Ikenasio, Justine McGregor, Jorja Miller, Manaia Nuku, Mahina Paul, Risaleeana Pouri-Lane, Alena Saili, Theresa Setefano (nee Fitzpatrick), Kelsey Teneti, Terina Te Tamaki, Stacey Waaka, Tenika Willison, Portia Woodman-Wickliffe.