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All Blacks Sevens young guns make their mark

All Blacks Sevens young guns make their mark

All BlacksApril 11, 2024

A feature of the All Blacks Sevens recent triumph in the Hong Kong Sevens was the startling performances of its youngest talent.

Cody Vai, Tepaea Cook-Savage, Che Clark, Moses Leo, Xavier Tito-Harris, and Fehi Fineanganofo all made significant contributions.

Fineanganofo (21) is a barnstorming forward with an uncompromising approach. He grew up playing rugby league. It wasn’t until he attended Auckland Grammar School rugby become a serious option.

“My dad trained me. He’s been my coach; lectured me at dinner, on the way home,” Fineanganofo told the All Blacks Podcast.

“I was centre in league, learned how to tackle. My best memory at Auckland Grammar was beating King’s three times in the rival game. I remind Che Clark all the time.

“Never been to one game like that.”

Fineanganofo was selected for the New Zealand Schools’ in 2020. He joined the All Blacks Sevens at the behest of coach Tomasi Cama following an outstanding Ignite 7s. Injury delayed his inclusion in the full squad. Eventually he debuted in the All Blacks Sevens Los Angeles Cup win in 2023.  He has played 40 matches on the SVNS series and scored seven tries. His favourite city to visit was Vancouver because of the enclosed stadium and variety of things to do.

Fineanganofo fancies himself as a chef and gamer. When asked what he’d cook for dinner and who he’d invite he was well prepared.

“Lot of options but properly eggs on toast.

“I’d invite my flatmate Tone Ng Shiu cause’ he's not going to judge.”

Roderick Solo (22) and Payton Spencer (19) are waiting to return to the All Blacks Sevens after injury.  The pair joined Fineanganofo on an entertaining episode of the All Blacks Podcast.

Solo was born in Samoa and moved to New Zealand with his six siblings when he was four. An Oriental Rongotai junior, he looked up to the Savea brothers from the same club.

Solo attended Scots College in Wellington and played 52 matches for the First XV. In 2019 he helped Scots' win the Wellington Premiership and made the New Zealand Secondary Schools.’ Later that year he was named MVP at the Ignite 7s which earned him a spot at an All Blacks Sevens training camp in 2020.

He debuted in Toulouse in May 2022. A year later he returned to France and scored the winning try when New Zealand beat Argentina 24-19 in the Cup final. In SVNS 2022-23 the All Blacks Sevens won five tournaments in capturing overall honours for the 14th time.  Solo also played in the Los Angeles Cup win. He rated Twickenham as his favourite stadium because it was “so packed, I can't even hear.” He enjoys Sevens because you can “connect more with the boys.”

The apprentice builder harbours ambitions to join the police when he stops playing professional rugby.

Payton Spencer grew up around professional rugby. His father was former All Blacks first-five Carlos Spencer who coached globally after retirement.

“I first played in England then South Africa. I hated it in South Africa. The kids were massive, 10 years old and 100kg,” Spencer laughed.

Spencer considered pursing cricket where he was a representative standard player but winning Super 8, Condor Sevens, and National Top Four titles with the fabled Hamilton Boys’ High School First XV whetted his appetite for the oval ball.

Spencer was selected in the New Zealand Schools’ in 2022. A later meeting with Tomasi Cama sealed a spot in the All Blacks Sevens.

He debuted in the Syndey Cup success in 2023 and followed that up with a win in LA and a fifth placing in Vancouver.

Listen to the full podcast on itunes or spotify.

Signing off #HSBCSVNSHKG in style 🏆#HSBCSVNS | @NZ_Sevens pic.twitter.com/ZK0IOv0GVI

— HSBC SVNS (@SVNSSeries) April 7, 2024

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