Super chance looms for stars at Glasgow Games

BEN STRANG
Last updated 05:00 09/02/2014

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Sevens

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

The New Zealand Sevens team will be aiming for their fifth Commonwealth 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.

That leaves the question, who could line up for the New Zealand Sevens team in Glasgow?

Here are five players who could possibly play, and make an impact, for Tietjens in July 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 the flair he shows on the field that's well justified.

Marshall is unlikely to find his way into the All Blacks squad this year, and if he can't lead the Blues to the playoffs, he would be a great asset for Tietjens in Glasgow.

■ Tanerau Latimer, Chiefs: Latimer has already won a Commonwealth Games gold with New Zealand at the 2006 Melbourne Games. He also holds the record for being Tietjens' youngest ever selection in the side, at only 17 years old in 2004.

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While he will be trying to add to his five All Blacks test caps, Latimer would have to get past Richie McCaw and Chiefs team mate Sam Cane for the treasured No 7 jumper.

Should he fail in that quest, the Commonwealth Games would be a nice plan B.

■ Ardie Savea, Hurricanes: Tell me the thought of Julian Savea's little brother storming up field in a New Zealand sevens jersey doesn't excite you.

At 1.9 metres and 95 kilograms, Savea is a beast of a man with impressive speed and strength.

With a few tips from his brother, 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, after his apprenticeship during last year's European Tour.

■ Johnny McNicholl, Crusaders: The Crusaders man has a wicked step, blistering pace and an eye for the try line.

With that combination, McNicholl could be a lethal finisher for New Zealand at the Commonwealth Games.

With a bit of coaching from the master Tietjens, there's no reason to think McNicholl couldn't be one of the leading try threats in July.

■ Jason Emery, Highlanders: Emery made his debut for Manawatu in 2012, and was picked up for the Highlanders before the 2013 season.

At only 20, Emery has pace and energy to burn, and should have picked up plenty from Tomasi Cama in the Turbos side.

His cousin is former Warriors league star Stacey Jones, so if he can show any of those family genes, he'd translate into a handy sevens player.

- Sunday News

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