All Blacks winger Caleb Clarke, who lit up international rugby with an eye-catching debut season last year, has put his hand up for selection in New Zealand's Olympic sevens squad for the Tokyo Games.
Explosive 22-year-old Clarke will join fellow Super Rugby players Etene Nanai-Seturo and Vilimoni Koroi for warm-up competitions against Australia and Fiji in coming weeks.
Auckland Blues winger Clarke and Waikato Chiefs outside back Nanai-Seturo return to the programme after an aborted bid last year when the Games were postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
"Both players have played for the team as recently as last season so, yeah, we're really excited to have them both back," New Zealand sevens coach Clark Laidlaw said.
"If we didn’t think they could do it, or weren’t confident that they could, we wouldn’t have asked them to come back at this late stage.
"So we’re really confident that we can get them back up to speed and glad to have them stick their hand up for selection."
Clarke followed his father Eroni into the All Blacks last year after a strong domestic season with the Auckland Blues and earned immediate comparisons with the late Jonah Lomu as he burst through defences with power and speed.
Clarke and Nanai-Seturo will hope to impress Olympic selectors in matches against Australia's sevens team next week before another Oceania-based tournament against Australia and Fiji slated for late-June in north Queensland state.
Laidlaw had hoped Wellington Hurricanes' Salesi Rayasi might also join the Olympic bid but the winger confirmed last week he would stick to Super Rugby ahead of the upcoming Trans-Tasman competition against Australian teams.
Still, securing three of the Super Rugby quartet was a major coup, said Laidlaw, as New Zealand's men strive for gold in Tokyo five years after suffering a surprise quarter-final exit at sevens' Olympic debut at Rio.
"Going to the Olympics would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so I'm looking forward to get back into training and putting my best foot forward," said Clarke.
With the Olympics rugby sevens tournament set to begin on 26 July, Clarke will miss the start of the All Blacks' international season.
The All Blacks are scheduled to host two tests against Italy and one against Fiji in July but may end up playing only Pacific opponents with the Italians expected to pull out of the tour due to the pandemic, New Zealand media reported.