Comm Games gold medal chance silver lining

BEN STRANG
Last updated 05:00 09/02/2014
Gordon Tietjens
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GORDON TIETJENS: "I have an indication of all the Super Rugby players who have expressed an interest in sevens at the Comm Games."

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There could be a silver lining for some players whose teams miss out on the Super Rugby playoffs this season - the chance of Commonwealth Games gold.

The New Zealand Sevens team will be aiming for their fifth Games gold medal on the trot in Glasgow this year, having never lost a match at the Games.

While the core of the squad is unlikely to change from that competing in the sevens world series, several Super Rugby players have expressed an interest in representing New Zealand in Glasgow.

However, with the Commonwealth Games sevens tournament running on July 26 and 27, the same weekend as the Super Rugby semifinals, players in playoff teams will miss out.

New Zealand Sevens coach Gordon Tietjens has an idea of which Super Rugby players are interested in playing in Glasgow.

"I have an indication of all the Super Rugby players who have expressed an interest in sevens at the Comm Games," he said.

"I'll sit back and watch their franchises progress in Super Rugby, but if they make the semifinals, then they certainly won't be available."

Tietjens said more players have put their hand up for selection at the Games than had been the case four years ago in Delhi. Liam Messam, Ben Smith, Zac Guildford and Hosea Gear were the star names added to the squad then, alongside the core sevens veterans.

"To be fair there are a number of players who I've been quite surprised by who have expressed an interest with an eye to the Olympics even though they may realistically not be available for Glasgow because of where they sit, but they have told me they're keen to play sevens."

All Blacks will be unavailable for Glasgow, with the Rugby Championship kicking off three weeks later, leaving players in the next tier available for selection.

So who could line up for the NZ Sevens team in Glasgow?

Here are five players who could possibly play, and make an impact, should they miss out on the All Blacks and Super Rugby playoffs:

Benji Marshall, Blues: Sevens would seem to be a game made for Marshall's talents. There has been plenty of talk about Marshall potentially playing for New Zealand at the Rio Olympics, and with his skills, that's well justified. Marshall would be a great asset for Tietjens in Glasgow.

Tanerau Latimer, Chiefs: Latimer won a Commonwealth Games gold with New Zealand at the 2006 Melbourne Games. He also holds the record for being Tietjens' youngest ever selection, at only 17, in 2004. While he will be trying to add to his five All Blacks test caps, he's up against Richie McCaw and team-mate Sam Cane for the treasured No 7 jumper.

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Ardie Savea, Hurricanes: At 1.9m and 95kg, Ardie Savea is a beast of a man with impressive speed and strength. With a few tips from his brother, Julian, who played under Tietjens in 2008 and 2009, Savea could be brilliant. That's if he isn't named in Steve Hansen's All Blacks squad.

Johnny McNicholl, Crusaders: This man has a wicked step, blistering pace and an eye for the try line. McNicholl could be a lethal finisher for New Zealand at the Commonwealth Games.

Jason Emery, Highlanders: Emery made his debut for Manawatu in 2012, before being picked up for the Highlanders. At only 20, Emery has pace and energy to burn. His cousin is former Warriors league star Stacey Jones, so with those family genes he could be a handy sevens player.

- Sunday Star Times

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