All Black coach Steve Hansen has hit back at suggestions New Zealand Rugby stood in the way of any All Black wanting to chase sevens gold at the Rio Olympics.

When the sevens format was added to the Olympic programme, pundits predicted the New Zealand side would be boosted by an influx of top-level talent.

But Sonny Bill Williams and Liam Messam were the only All Blacks to make the temporary switch and Sir Gordon Tietjens side have been left to rely largely on their existing player base so far in the World Sevens Series.

Listen to Newstalk ZB's Radio Sport talk to Steve Hansen:

And while there was a perception rugby bosses might have prevented some of this country's bigger names from leaving the All Blacks during a transitional period for the team, Hansen said the decision was down to the players themselves.


"We really want the sevens to win a gold medal because it's another part of New Zealand Rugby and it's important we go there and play well," the All Black coach told Tony Veitch on Newstalk ZB. "We certainly haven't fingered anyone and said you can't play - that's not the way we do things.

"We want people who want to play for the All Blacks. and if they have desire to go and play sevens, we will support that as we have done with people like Liam and Sonny.

"The fact of the matter is we don't have any say whether they [play sevens or not]. The players decide. They have been given the option."

Hansen revealed more players might have expressed a greater interest in pursuing that option had Tietjens been a little more accommodating. Ben Smith, for one, was tempted by the possibility of adding an Olympic medal to the Commonwealth Games gold he won with the sevens side in 2010, but Tietjens was unwilling for the fullback to play as often as possible for the Highlanders first.

"If you look at someone like Ben Smith, he's captain of the Highlanders and feels responsible for them," Hansen said. "The sevens [programme] couldn't be flexible enough to say, 'okay, let's just take this guy at the end of Super Rugby and play him in one or two tournaments'.

" [But] he had a policy where he wants them to go to X amount of tournaments.

"The meeting we were at, we suggested that Ben would be keen if he would be allowed to do this but [Tietjens] said, 'I don't want that, I want them to be available', which is his prerogative."