Rugby: Sevens rethink in order after shock in London

By Campbell Burnes

Coach Gordon Tietjens is under no illusions about where his team are at, but was able to put the disappointment into clear perspective. Photo / Alan Gibson
Coach Gordon Tietjens is under no illusions about where his team are at, but was able to put the disappointment into clear perspective. Photo / Alan Gibson

A rethink is likely for the All Blacks Sevens after their consolation Plate victory in London.

The World Series is more competitive than ever, as evidenced by six different Cup winners in 2015-16 - the latest being Scotland, of all teams - so New Zealand know that if they are off the pace on finals day, they will pay a high price.

That happened in Las Vegas, where Kenya blanked them 22-0, and on day two in London at the weekend when they imploded in spectacular fashion, 42-14, against USA, who finished sixth on the standings.

The Perry Baker-Madison Hughes combination was too hot to handle, but as a dress rehearsal for Rio it was a humiliating reverse. New Zealand, with Rieko Ioane again hot to trot via 10 tournament tries, did turn things around to clinch the Plate, but any bad lapses in Rio will be enough to tumble out of medal contention.

Teddy Stanaway also impressed on day two in London, his direct running helping set up several tries. Regan Ware was a nominee for World Rugby sevens rookie of the year.

Coach Gordon Tietjens is under no illusions about where his team are at, but was able to put the disappointment into clear perspective.

"It was a strong finish, with one loss in the tournament, but it was one that really hurt. We just didn't turn up. But overall it wasn't a bad effort to finish third in the World Series.

"We've got a few to come back, which is promising. Now we've got 10 weeks of hard work ahead. We've got a lot of technical areas that we need to work on," Tietjens said.

"We're also looking at getting our guys' conditioning to the levels they need to be at. It's fair to say also with some 15-a-side players that have come into our scene just recently, they're not yet sevens-fit.

"But by the time they come around and get up to those levels on top of the other players as well, we'll be a different team," said Tietjens.

Into that category come the Ioane brothers, Augustine Pulu and Pita Ahki. But, ironically, Tietjens' highlight of the season - the Cup victories in Wellington and Sydney - were made possible with some stirring play from 15s stars such as the Ioanes, Ben Lam and Ardie Savea. Sonny Bill Williams limped off with an injury in the USA clash. He has got better in his six tournaments, but is yet to be the force on attack he can be in 15s.

New Zealand won three Cup finals, as opposed to just one in 2014-15, but they needed the top-end consistency Fiji had until the final month. The building blocks are in place.

At least New Zealand are better placed than Australian Jarryd Hayne to make the Olympics. The ex-NRL code-hopper is, as expected, a long way behind the eight-ball in terms of sevens fitness and nous.

- NZ Herald

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