Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rio Olympics 2016: Hansen calls for sevens review

The post mortem of the New Zealand men's team's failure to win a sevens rugby medal at Rio has already started in the court of public opinion, and now All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has called for an official review.

Winning two sevens medals was a New Zealand Rugby strategic goal this year; instead, a silver medal to the women's team was as good as it got after the men's team put in a disappointing performance in losing 12-7 to Fiji in a quarter-final this morning.

Hansen said it was important not to "paper over things" as New Zealand Rugby, the sevens team, and the All Blacks try to get to grips with what was a build-up riven by conflicts between winning a gold medal and winning test matches.

The most obvious case was Ardie Savea pulling out of the sevens squad due to his desire to play for the Hurricanes and then excelling for the All Blacks against Wales in June before helping his franchise to a maiden championship.

"There's a definite conflict," Hansen admitted. "It's been difficult for the players hasn't it? Some have chosen to go and some have chosen to stay, and that's an option they've decided to make without the influence of Titch, or myself. It's extremely difficult. I think if they had a clear calendar before the Olympics when there wasn't any test rugby you would see a lot more people wanting to go.

"At the same time, it emphasises the players' thoughts about how they feel about the All Black jersey and for that matter their franchise. A lot of players made the decision to stay and try to win a championship for their franchise.

"We'd all like to have all our great players at the Olympics to win the gold medal but that's not guaranteed either. We still want to win test matches, and that's not guaranteed."

However, Hansen added: "Everyone will come back and review the process and we'll learn some lessons as we always do. It took us a while to win a World Cup [after 1987]. We've just got to make sure we don't paper over things - we've got to look at it honestly and genuinely as a rugby-playing group, the sevens, the All Blacks and the Rugby Union itself, and see how we can do it better because it's an opportunity to showcase rugby from New Zealand."

The New Zealand men won only one match at the Olympics - against Kenya - losing to Japan, Great Britain, and finally, Fiji. Their victories in the world series this year have been built on their size and physicality, and starring roles from Akira and Rieko Ioane, but the brothers struggled to find their feet in Rio and it appeared other nations had done their homework on Sir Gordon Tietjens' team.

Hansen said the men's team would "rue" their opening loss to Japan, a huge shock, but disagreed that New Zealand's top players might be ordered to attend the next Olympics in Tokyo.

"When you do that you're taking away peoples' choices of what game they want to play... that's not the way you run your business or the way you treat your employees."

- NZ Herald

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