Peter is a sports writer at the Bay of Plenty Times

Sevens: Tietjens happy with Rio hopefuls

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Sonny Bill Williams in action at All Blacks Sevens training at Blake Park yesterday. Photo / George Novak
Sonny Bill Williams in action at All Blacks Sevens training at Blake Park yesterday. Photo / George Novak

Sir Gordon Tietjens is focusing on the last two legs of the HSBC Sevens World Series this month rather than worrying about players who will not commit to their country.

Tietjens admits last week's decision by Hurricanes star Ardie Savea to pull out of the sevens programme aiming for gold at the Rio Olympics was certainly frustrating.

"It is what it is. I am disappointed and who wouldn't be. It is the greatest sporting event in the world and of course to have someone pull out so late was really disappointing," Tietjens said.

"It is a choice that Ardie made at the last minute and it has been a little disruptive but my philosophy is about getting on with it now.

"I had no idea at all this was coming because he really enjoyed Wellington and Sydney and that's why I was really so surprised."

But Tietjens is more than happy with the squad of 16 that completed training at Mount Maunganui's Blake Park yesterday. These players will contest the final two legs of the World Series in Paris and London ahead of Olympic trials in mid-June.

"I've got a bunch of guys here that really want to put their hand up to go to the Olympics.

"The ones that have been training the house down to prove their worth are certainly going to get that opportunity."

Blues brothers Rieko and Akira Ioane are a major boost to the All Blacks Sevens squad.

"What they come with is a magnificent attitude," Tietjens said. "They have been playing Super Rugby and playing well. They have turned up here and slotted straight back in to the team. They have great character and Augustine Pulu is back now and offers lots to the team as well."

Tietjens is pleased with the improvement shown by his side at the last tournament in Singapore after a tough time at the Hong Kong Sevens.

"I thought we had a great Hong Kong after that traumatic semifinal against South Africa that went to two periods of extra time and losing my two key players in Tim Mikkelson and Sam Dickson.

"The other 10 guys really stood up and played exceedingly well. Not good enough to beat Fiji but we pushed them which was pleasing.

"In Singapore we gave young Isaac Te Aute (Bay of Plenty) a chance to wear the black jersey which was quite special. This year is all about winning an Olympic medal but using the World Series to move forward and give players an opportunity to really get out and have a crack to make that side."

All Blacks Sevens have been drawn in Pool A in Paris alongside Singapore Sevens winners Kenya, Portugal and Russia.

They are third in the season standings behind South Africa and leaders Fiji.

Papamoa-based team captain Scott Curry will travel with the team but not play as he finally recovers from a troublesome shoulder injury, while Mount Maunganui's Teddy Stanaway is part of the 16-man squad.

The All Blacks Sevens squad for the last two legs of the HSBC Sevens World Series in Paris (May 13-15) and London (May 21-22):

Pita Ahki (North Harbour), Kurt Baker (Taranaki), Dylan Collier (Waikato), Scott Curry (Bay of Plenty), DJ Forbes (Counties Manukau), Akira Ioane (Auckland), Rieko Ioane (Auckland), Gillies Kaka (Hawke's Bay), Liam Messam (Waikato), Tim Mikkelson (Waikato), Sione Molia (Counties Manukau), Lewis Ormond (Taranaki), Augustine Pulu (Counties Manukau), Teddy Stanaway (Bay of Plenty), Regan Ware (Waikato), Sonny Bill Williams (Counties Manukau).

Not considered because of injury; Sam Dickson, Ben Lam, Joe Webber.

- All 16 players will travel to Europe on Saturday as part of preparations for the Olympic Games in August. The squad includes injured captain Scott Curry who will train with the squad, but not play in the tournaments.

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