Twenty hopefuls will seek spots for Glasgow

LIAM NAPIER
Last updated 05:00 15/05/2014
Fairfax NZ

The All Black Sevens team have arrived home with a twelfth world championship trophy

Ardie Savea
Getty
GAMES HOPEFUL: Hurricanes' utility Ardie Savea may be a chance at the NZ Sevens team for the Commonwealth Games.
Lolagi Visinia
Getty Images
CHARGING ON: Lolagi Visinia of the Blues is on the NZ Sevens team's radar for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

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Twenty hopefuls, including Super Rugby stars, will seek spots at the Commonwealth Games early next month. After a typically ruthless selection process overseen by Gordon Tietjens, only 12 players will ultimately make the cut, though.

Not all of the New Zealand sevens team that arrived home yesterday after securing their 12th World Series title from 15 attempts will survive the cull for Glasgow.

That's the harsh reality.

A three-day trial scheduled for June 3-6 in Mt Maunganui will finalise the 12-strong squad to chase a fifth successive gold medal. Fourteen players will initially travel to Amsterdam, the team's training base for one week, before two are trimmed from the squad that assembles at the athletes' village.

Captain DJ Forbes, Scott Curry, Ben Lam, Bryce Heem and Gillies Kaka have formed the core of Tietjens' side this season.

Others, though, will feel more than a tad nervous during their well-deserved week off, as Super Rugby players prepare to their claims.

"Being a one off tournament there will be a lot of guys come in and push really hard for spots," Lam said.

At the last Commonwealth Games in Delhi, Tietjens had All Blacks Liam Messam, Ben Smith and Hosea Gear at his disposal.

No sevens coach would turn down such talent and, while Tietjens won't have access to All Blacks this time, a number of Super Rugby's explosive prospects could be available.

The sevens mastermind confirmed yesterday Blues utility Lolagi Visinia and midfielder Pita Ahki were on his radar, while others such as powerful wing Frank Halai, dynamic Hurricanes openside Ardie Savea and Chiefs livewire Tim Nanai-Williams would not hurt the pursuit of gold.

Availability will, however, be dependent on their respective Super Rugby team's fortunes.

"A lot of players expressed an interest quite a while ago," Tietjens said.

"Some have played for me before. It's whether they can make that transition, depending on where their team sits on the Super Rugby table.

"There are a couple of players in the Blues who have expressed an interest. Pita Ahki is one of those players. Visinia has also played for me in the past. They'll certainly be options.

"There are a key group of players in here that will be incredibly important to me going to the Commonwealth Games. The game has changed over the last couple of years since those players wore the sevens jersey."

With that dramatic evolvement of late, Tietjens' squad now predominately features strong, tall, powerful, fit athletes.

Sevens has become more confrontational, as teams endeavour to retain possession for longer periods, rather than adopt the unconventional approach.

Counter rucking at the breakdown is also on the rise, meaning there is less room for smaller players who can be dominated in such collisions.

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Most of all, though, the biggest challenge for Super Rugby prospects remains the fitness requirements.

"The real challenge for anyone coming out of Super Rugby is can they make that transition to the conditioning levels," Tietjens said.

And with that, the guru laid down the challenge.

- Fairfax Media

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