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Tietjens embraces Samoan sevens challenge

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 26/01/2017
Gordon Tietjens. Gordon Tietjens.

Sevens tournaments usually build to a crescendo but for many, a highlight in Wellington will come early on day one.

The defending champion All Blacks Sevens' opening game is against a Samoan team coached by their renowned former mentor of more than two decades, Sir Gordon Tietjens.

The godfather of sevens in New Zealand stood down last September in the wake of their failure at the Rio Olympics.

Snapped up quickly by Samoa, Tietjens makes his tournament debut in charge of the island nation, determined to improve their stocks.

He told the World Rugby website he has nothing to prove against the players he knows so well and was pleasantly surprised when he first saw the draw.

"It's early days but we have worked incredibly hard over the last three or four weeks so hopefully it will be a good game," he said.

"It's funny. When I stepped down from the New Zealand team after 22 years I thought that was it and now all of a sudden I find myself here at the Wellington Sevens."

The 61-year-old led New Zealand to an extended period of sevens domination, clinching four successive Commonwealth Games gold medals and 12 of the first 15 world series titles.

Olympic champions Fiji and South Africa have passed the All Blacks Sevens in the last two years but Tietjens doesn't believe he has lost his coaching mojo.

He has plenty of ideas to lift Samoa, who won a world series crown six years ago but have slipped to the point that they missed qualification for last year's Rio Olympics.

Always fastidious with his approach, he believes the island nation can make enormous gains if the players are prepared to improve their attitude towards nutrition and fitness.

"In Samoa, they understand the game, the physicality of it is never questioned but it's the speed and intensity of the game that they have got to get used to."

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