Tietjens hopes to find 'new Cullen'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 March, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 March, 1998, 12:00am

New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens is hoping that he can unearth a new Christian Cullen in time to stop the Fijian juggernaut from speeding to yet another Hong Kong Sevens title.

Tietjens, who wastes no opportunity to point out that Fiji are the team to beat, was yesterday in a reminiscent mood thinking back to the good old days before last year's World Cup Sevens.

From 1994 to 1996, New Zealand reigned supreme here with the Teitjens-coached and Eric Rush-led side conquering all.

'In 1995 we had a guy called Cullen. I played him in the very first game and he scored the very first try for us. He did not play for the rest of the tournament but he came back the following year and made a name for himself,' related Tietjens.

Cullen has gone on to become a star fullback for the All Blacks. Now Tietjens hopes he can find another such player in his current squad - with the talent and individual skills to beat the Fijians.

'Do we have one? . . . well we will have to wait and see,' said Tietjens, soon after New Zealand had thrashed Singapore 59-0 in the opening game of the 1998 tournament.

The most likely candidates to fill that vacancy will be newcomer and half-back Tony Monaghan and Brad Flemming, a member of the 1996 Cup-winning team.

They looked the part as the Kiwis stretched their legs to move past hapless Singapore.

Another new face, Aisea Tuilevu, will also be in the running. Tuilevu was a member of the Fijian 15s team who visited Hong Kong back in 1995. He caught the eye then with his powerful runs on the wing.

New Zealand's sevens professionals - all of them are contracted by their Union - scored nine tries in all as they tried to set a high standard from the word go.

They have won five sevens tournaments worldwide - three by beating Fiji in the final - before arriving here. But Tietjens said nothing much could be read into those victories.

'We were not playing against the best Fijian sides then. This one in Hong Kong is different.'