Rugby: Tietjens slams World Cup sevens draw

By Andrew Alderson in Moscow

Sevens coach Sir Gordon Tietjens. Photo / NZPA
Sevens coach Sir Gordon Tietjens. Photo / NZPA

Sir Gordon Tietjens has lambasted the Rugby World Cup sevens draw because he says it fails to reward the records built by the world's best teams.

The New Zealand coach says the current system where quarter-finalists include the six pool winners and the next best two teams on points differential is unfair.

New Zealand came into the tournament ranked No. 1, a position determined by their world series winning status and consistent form over two years.

Tietjens' problem is the draw recalibrates itself after pool play and their first ranking is handed to whomever has the best points differential.

As it happens, New Zealand was ranked fourth and will play fifth-ranked Wales in tonight's quarter-finals. Wales beat them in the 2009 World Cup at the same stage, before going on to take the title.

In the other matches, top-ranked South Africa play Fiji, Kenya meet France and England face Australia.

"If you measure performances over two years we are well ahead of anyone else," Tietjens says. "[This system] effectively means we are drawn out of a hat with six other teams for the quarter-finals.

"There's a lot of hard work to get to a point where you can call yourself the best team in the world, so you deserve the No. 1 seeding in the World Cup. Anything else is tough to take."

Tietjens said the situation was aggravated by what he considers unbalanced pools.

"Some are easier than others. Canada and the United States [whom New Zealand played] are always tough. We're the only team the US has never beaten in the world series.

"To win all the games in your pool and not know who you're playing [in the quarter-finals], that stinks. 16 [rather than 24] is a good number because you can rank the teams. At the moment you have to win the game then worry about points to get a better draw.

"If you asked any other coach they'll admit it's tough. We're all talking about it. The emphasis in any game, especially a World Cup, is about winning and teams deserve to benefit from that."

Compounding matters is the fact New Zealand have not been at their most convincing, edging to wins over Canada (31-12), Georgia (26-7) and the United States (26-19).

In the latter match they were down 19-5 until midway through the second half. They slipped off tackles, lost possession at kick-offs and scrambled with limited support at the breakdown on occasion.

"You can't play without the ball and we barely got any [in the first half]," Tietjens said.

"It means when you do look to attack your energy levels are lower. Fortunately we were fit enough but we need ball because the [30-plus degree] conditions are hard enough to play in already.

"The Americans also played a scrambling defence and stopped what I thought were certain tries because we didn't get there quickly enough. We weren't getting the first takes or second takes from bobbled ball [at the kick offs] either.

"We showed character to come back into the game, but the guys are hurting."

Kick-off retention specialist Sam Dickson exited with a strained knee which will be monitored.

Earlier Georgia capitalised on a couple of New Zealand missed tackles in the first half but could not create a try until too late.

The New Zealand women showed flair using the width of the field to set up tries. They defeated Tunisia (36-0), the Netherlands (41-0) and Canada (20-5) to go through to the quarter-finals.

Coach Sean Horan said: "We're not the biggest side compared to the likes of Russia, England or Australia so we have to play what suits us. Yes, it is taxing but it's taxing for the opposition too."

* Andrew Alderson travelled to Moscow courtesy of New Zealand Rugby.

- NZ Herald

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