The national side has been grouped with Chile, Germany and Uganda in Pool G. At the tournament to be held from April 5 to 7, Cook Islands will be competing in the World Rugby Sevens Series Qualifier alongside 11 other nations.
In the other qualifiers pools, host Hong Kong is the top seed leading Pool E which has Tonga, Zimbabwe and Philippines while Pool F comprise Ireland, Russia, Uruguay and Jamaica.
The main draw (Pools A to D) will feature the teams that are part of the World Rugby Sevens Series.
National coach Vase Samania is wary of the teams in Cook Islands’ pool and is hoping to put on a better performance than their last year’s outing at the tournament.
Samania said the aim was to advance through to the quarter-finals and better rankings.
For that, the side will need to finish in the top two in the pool competition.
Cook Islands Rugby Union released the national squad earlier this month. The 12-member team comprise some experienced players alongside five newcomers who are set to make their debut.
Of the five, three are non-Cook Islanders based in Rarotonga. Debutantes Josua Koroitukana, Colati “Tua” Ravula and Vaehoolu “Leki” Leka are eligible to play for the Cook Islands after meeting the World Rugby criteria.
They are joined by New Zealand-based Owen Karati and Gene Te Amo, who are also set to make their Sevens debut.
“It’s so nice to have Fijian brothers (Ravula and Koroitukuna) join the team and we have a Tongan boy (Leka) part of the squad as well. They are not new into selection, they have been part of the process before as well as the Samoan boys,” Samania said.
“They bring a different style of rugby into the Cook Islands game so hopefully they will come together with the local boys and we can combine their skills and blend it well with our rugby to get something unique out of it.”
Samania also said the five overseas players were chosen based on their form and performance this season.
These players are Tokerau Raru (Australia), Christian Vainerere (Australia), Walter Koteka (Australia), Owen Karati (New Zealand) and Gene Te Amo (New Zealand).
“The plan from the start was to try and get most players available from here and also look into some of our players who are based in Australia and New Zealand,” Samania said.
“We managed to get these (five) boys who are available so hopefully we can all come together in the next two weeks and get the team bonding ahead of Hong Kong Sevens.”
The Rarotonga-based contingent will depart the country on March 27 and assemble in Auckland for a three day training, together with the New Zealand and Australia-based players, before travelling on to Hong Kong.
Cook Islands Sevens – Stephen Willis (Captain), Robert Heather Jr (VC), Josua Koroitukana, Teina Savage, Vaehoolu “Leki” Leka, Matamanea Matapakia, Colati “Tua” Ravula, Tokerau Raru (Australia), Christian Vainerere (Australia), Walter Koteka (Australia), Owen Karati (New Zealand), Gene Te Amo (New Zealand); Non travelling squad members – James Kora, Tanire Mokoroa, Jason Potoru, Junior Napara, Stormmel Ruatoe. Management: Head Coach – Vase Samania, Manager – Ashleigh Willis and Physio Jana Whitta.