Team Preview - New Zealand
The Wheel Blacks have a strong history in Wheelchair Rugby with bronze medals at both the first World Championships in 1995 and the first showing of Wheelchair Rugby as a demonstration sport in Atlanta 1996. Success continued with silver at the 1998 World Championships and a bronze medal at the sport's official Paralympic debut in Sydney 2000. Progression culminated in a gold medal at Athens followed by a silver at the 2006 World Championships on home soil.
But a decade of success was halted by a disappointing Beijing campaign and since then it has been a long road back to the top. New Zealand will be using BT WWRC15 to show that they are once again a force. WIth only 8 places up for grabs in Rio (and one of those going to the host nation), qualification in the Asia/Oceania zone is always tough when you have Australia and Japan to go up against but they have done it before and remain one of only 4 countries to have a Paralympic medal and will always be able to call themselves Paralympic Champions from their Athens success.
An 8th place in the 2014 World Champs will give some reason for optimism and rumours are there are some new players developing into the elite group that will continue to roll the team forward from their current World Ranking of 8th
The Wheel Blacks were the first team to announce their squad for BT WWRC15 and the line up has a few new names in it that will not have played at this level before but equally will not be known to the opposition. One name that will be known to many is Maia Amai who is now firmly established as one of the best female players in the world. Her story is well captured by this short video.
Another prominent player in the squad is Cameron Leslie, who will be able to talk of London 2012 success after his Gold Medal performance in the pool following Gold in Beijing as well. If the Wheel Blacks can qualify for Rio then Leslie will have some tough decisions to make, but he will relish a return to the Olympic Park with a trip to the Aquatics centre surely on his agenda.
So a fine mixture of youth and experience and a fierce ambition to hit previous heights places New Zealand in the one to watch category, with many pundits expecting them to spring a few surprises. A challenging tournament schedule sees them play twice in the Tuesday day session against the Wheel Boks and the USA Eagles, with what could be their crunch match coming in the live TV slot of Wednesday evening against Canada.
Tue Oct 13 v South Africa - 1000 and v USA - 1400 Tickets
Wed Oct 14 v Canada - 1730 Tickets
Full Tournament Schedule
For more information about the Wheel Blacks take a look at their official website