Gordon Tietjens master in Sevens success

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 05:00 02/07/2013
All Blacks Sevens
GLORY: The New Zealand men's and women's sevens teams completed a stunning double by winning their World Cup finals in Moscow.

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Gordon Tietjens' management of his veteran sevens stars was a key to regaining the World Cup and how he handles them over the next phase will be vital to New Zealand's Olympic chances.

The master coach was at the peak of his powers in Moscow, cleverly juggling his talented squad and then tweaking tactics on a dramatic final day when wild weather hit the tournament, including sending New Zealand and Fiji from the field for safety reasons during their semifinal.

When New Zealand returned to action an hour later, they saw off their arch enemies 17-0 and then blitzed England in the final 33-0.

In between those two matches the New Zealand women's team won its own World Cup, beating a dogged Canadian team 29-12 in the final.

The double glory in the Russian capital meant a gold-letter day in New Zealand rugby - the men and women own both the 15s and sevens World Cups.

For Tietjens, it was as much about transferring their annual world series dominance - 11 titles in 13 years - to the World Cup stage.

It's a recipe he will try to repeat at next year's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow but the biggest question will be whether his cunning ways can earn New Zealand a gold medal when the sport is introduced to the Olympics in Brazil in 2016.

Tietjens has managed to retain a core of experienced players while the up and comers his scouting unearths are regularly whisked away to Super Rugby squads and, in many cases, All Blacks honours.

Captain DJ Forbes, aged 30, Tomasi Cama, 32, and Lote Raikabula, 29, all have Father Time chasing them.

Tietjens values their experience incredibly, especially in big moments. But he will monitor them carefully.

Already injuries are starting to plague the talented trio.

Forbes shrugged off a serious foot complaint to make Moscow and Cama battled a back injury.

Tietjens held Cama back from the first two days of the cup, only unleashing him yesterday.

The Fijian was a key figure in helping dispose of defending champions Wales in the quarterfinals, his old homeland in the semifinals, and the English.

The three were part of the last World Cup disappointment four years ago in Dubai and Tietjens was especially pleased for them yesterday.

"To come off a world series win and cap it off with a World Cup is tremendous for us . . . and great to do it with the core of guys I had here as well."

Tietjens also saw the success as justification to his theory that the game has become a specialist environment rather than one where 15s players can come and go as some of his opposition went down that road for the cup.

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"Every game [yesterday] we performed superbly. We got the buzz going . . . attitude was the key really and most pleasing was the way we stuck with the game plan to beat England.

"They played right into our hands."

New Zealand struck early twice in the final and then sucked England into a kicking war which the All Blacks Sevens won handsomely, forcing their opponents into mistakes at the wrong end of the field. Forbes, with his work rate, was influential and young playmaker Gillies Kaka capped a superb tournament with a standout performance in the final.

So did Tim Mikkelson, whose slick finishing brought two tries to double his tournament tally.

But that had nothing on Portia Woodman, the New Zealand women's try-scoring freak, who also notched a double in the final against Canada to total 12 throughout the tournament.

Her speed and movement were capitalised on by a team that has developed rapidly in its first year under coach Sean Horan.

"It is amazing. I can't explain it. A year ago I never thought I would be here," Woodman said modestly.

"It's great to score tries but I didn't even notice how many. That is my job. The forwards get me the ball and it is my job to finish it."

The women face an even tougher task building into the Rio Olympics because the improvement on their side of the game is more rapid.

It's an increasingly even playing field. The Kiwis struck a few hiccups along the way to claiming the inaugural world series this year but were clearly the form side in Moscow, erasing the disappointment of their extra-time loss in the last cup final.

Fairfax NZ

- Fairfax Media

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