Sevens: Coach left on the ground

The All Blacks Sevens will leave their master coach Gordon Tietjens behind when they fly out to Hong Kong for the next round of the IRB World Series beginning on March 22.

Tietjens is suffering from an ear infection and is not likely to be cleared to fly until next Thursday.

Skills coach and former Bay of Plenty player Damian Karauna will take over a team missing key players Toby Arnold, Kurt Baker, Tomasi Cama, Scott Curry, Mark Jackman and David Raikuna through injury.

Otago's Matt Faddes and Trinity Spooner-Neera from Hawke's Bay will make their international debuts.

Tietjens says he has faith in the players he named after final training yesterday on the field named in his honour at Blake Park, Mount Maunganui.

"This year we have been challenged in a big way because I think we had 10 new players at the first tournament and even at the last tournament, the guys were beating themselves up a bit when we lost the final to South Africa.

"But we had eight new players. You look at the team and think we are not going that bad.

"The consistency has been there to be in four out of the five finals this year, and to win in South Africa."

The All Blacks Sevens go into round six of the nine round World Series on 96 points, ahead of South Africa (73), Samoa (71), Fiji (66) and France (59).

Tietjens is impressed with the standard of young talent coming through the New Zealand system.

"We are a breeding ground for some up and coming youngsters and it is finding the ones who are prepared to do the hard yards.

"We had some young guys training with us from the Condor Sevens and they are unbelievable at such a young age, and so mentally tough.

"Perhaps we are blessed to have the players in New Zealand with all the talent, who are still prepared to put in the hard yards, to be the best rugby players they can be. Most of my trainings are going to be harder than any game they will ever play probably so if you get through the trainings the games are meant to be easy - except for the big games of course, where you need all your energy."

New Zealand team: Sam Dickson, Matt Faddes*, DJ Forbes (Capt), Gillies Kaka, Rocky Khan, Ben Lam, Luke Masirewa, Tim Mikkelson, Lote Raikabula, Trinity Spooner-Neera*, Sherwin Stowers, Belgium Tuatagaloa.

* Denotes new cap

- Bay of Plenty Times

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