Rugby: Contenders jostling to fill Sir Gordon Tietjens' big sevens shoes

By Campbell Burnes

Ben Ryan would no doubt thrive on the challenge of making New Zealand great again at sevens. Photo / Photosport
Ben Ryan would no doubt thrive on the challenge of making New Zealand great again at sevens. Photo / Photosport

There appears to be three main candidates to replace the incomparable Sir Gordon Tietjens in the New Zealand rugby sevens role.

If New Zealand Rugby opted for the most obvious and qualified, it would signal a departure from their preference for appointing only New Zealanders to national head coaching roles.

Chief executive Steve Tew yesterday did not rule out a foreigner taking the helm.

Ben Ryan is English, but is now an honorary Fijian after guiding the island nation to the last two World Series titles and their first Olympic gold medal in Rio.

Job done, he stepped away from the role only days ago, so is a free agent.

Ryan is a decent bloke and would no doubt thrive on the challenge of making New Zealand great again at sevens.

He knows the scene, the game and the players, and should be target No 1 for New Zealand Rugby, provided he is keen to do it.

Tietjens himself said the new coach needs to be "proven". Ryan fits that bill.

Sean Horan is, like Tietjens, Bay of Plenty-domiciled, and may fancy the challenge of coaching the men after he oversaw a silver medal for our women in Rio. If he won the job, there would be no need for any training base change from Mt Maunganui's Gordon Tietjens Field.

One of the names mentioned even prior to Tietjens stepping down was Scott Waldrom, the former All Black who played five tournaments for the national sevens side over eight seasons. Waldrom has good knowledge and took Wellington to the 2014 national provincial cup title.

North Harbour's John McKittrick and Geoff Alley have a wealth of knowledge - McKittrick even co-wrote a book on 7s with Eric Rush.

DJ Forbes was also touted as one who could seamlessly move into coaching, but this position might be too early for him.

There are just under three months until the first leg of the 2016-17 World Series in Dubai. One would hope a candidate is named sooner rather than later, because there is a heap of rugby, either Mitre 10 Cup or development level and even national schools, to absorb for potential players.

Tietjens, one of the great talent scouts with close to 50 All Blacks emerging from his teams, watched the most rugby no one else watched. He knew Super Rugby would pounce on the obvious talents. But it was the uncut gems he was so adept at discovering.

Tietjens did that for 22 years, ever since he replaced Peter Thorburn in 1994 as a 38-year-old with a clear vision on how sevens should be played and trained.

There was a feeling he could go on forever, which is perhaps why there was no solid succession plan. But the new coach will surely have "Titch" on speed dial.

- NZ Herald

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