Wheel Blacks arrive in Europe ahead of IWRF World Championships
By Laura Hale at www.para-sportnews.com
Yesterday, the New Zealand national wheelchair rugby team arrived in Paris, France ahead of this year’s IWRF World Championships in Odense, Denmark. They are scheduled to play against the French national team in a friendly in front of Paris’s town hall. Nafi Lefono is not yet with the team, and is scheduled to join them in Denmark.
The French friendly may be important for getting an idea of how well New Zealand will do at the competition, as they are the first team New Zealand is scheduled to meet at the world championships. New Zealand enters the competition ranked tenth in the world while France is currently ranked twelfth.
The New Zealand team at the worlds is scheduled to include Maia Amai, Dan Buckingham, Robert Hewitt, Tanafi Lefono, Cameron Leslie, Gavin Rolton, Steve Smith, Philip Spring, Sholto Taylor, Adam Wakeford, and Barney Koneferenisi. Hewitt and Amai are the newest members of the squad, joining it in 2013.
The world championships start on August 4. In the past, New Zealand did well at the competition, finishing third at the 1995 world championships, second at the 1998 world championships, and second at the 2006 world championships. They have not performed well in more recent years, so expectations are not high.
The team’s last Paralympic medal was at the 2008 Summer Paralympics where they won gold. Their last Asia-Oceania championship gold was in 2005. In the most recent edition, they finished third.