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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Baby refuses to play ball for new mum Kayla McAlister at Dubai Rugby Sevens

Black Ferns make opening day of Dubai Rugby Sevens look like child's play with wins over South Africa, France and United States

Kayla McAlister, left, of New Zealand passes the ball during the match against South Africa on Day 1 of the Emirates Dubai Rugby Sevens. Tom Dulat / Getty Images
Kayla McAlister, left, of New Zealand passes the ball during the match against South Africa on Day 1 of the Emirates Dubai Rugby Sevens. Tom Dulat / Getty Images

Most parents of seven-month-old babies could sympathise. When you are trying to get something done, it would be handy if the little one followed a neat sleeping pattern, just this once.

The fact Kayla McAlister’s daughter Stella refused to oblige was perhaps understandable. She might still be on New Zealand time, after all, and this is her first trip to Dubai.

Plus she probably wanted to watch her mother doing what she does – which in this case was scored a try in each of the pool matches for the Black Ferns on Day 1 of the Dubai Rugby Sevens.

“She has had one hour’s sleep all day, and was in the tunnel when we were trying to focus,” McAlister said.

This is McAlister’s first tournament since the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016. It looked as if she had barely been away, as she fitted seamlessly back in to the irresistible New Zealand team, who won each of their pool matches against South Africa, France and United States.

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“It was good to get back out there with the girls, although my lungs are blowing a bit,” McAlister said.

“It is good to be back in the environment. I pretty much took it easy for three months [after giving birth to Stella], then got straight back into it.

“After watching them all year after Rio, and we had a tough 18 months leading into that, the girls did so well here last year, then in the series that followed, and it was gutting sitting at home pregnant. My goal was Dubai.”

Oddly, the last match of Day 1 will be repeated as the first match of the Women’s Series finals day, as New Zealand face the US in the quarter final at 9am on Pitch 2.

Russia face Spain, Canada play France, while a fixture between England and Australia is the pick of the round.

The Australians also won all three of their pool fixtures, including a match against England, and Charlotte Caslick is hoping for more of the same on Friday.

“We were focusing on keeping hold of the ball and working really hard for each other, being first to the ball all over the field,” Caslick said.

“In this heat, you have to work super hard. Holding onto the ball is key, and if you can do that in this heat you can run teams off their feet. That is what we will be aiming to do.”