Tietjens can call on All Black stars
Relaxation of selection policy means Super 12 teams will release players for World Cup Sevens
New Zealand will be able to field stars like All Black winger Joe Rokocoko at next year's Rugby World Cup Sevens in Hong Kong. They will be the team to beat after sevens coach Gordon Tietjens was given free rein to draw upon the cream of the country's Super 12 talent.
With the Kiwis being defending World Cup Sevens champions, Tietjens has been given permission by the New Zealand Rugby Union to pick one player from each of the country's Super 12 franchises.
'I will be able to pick one player from the main squad of 22 from each of the Super 12 franchises as well as one further player from the other six [in the squad]. I will definitely be looking to pick the best players I can,' Tietjens was quoted as saying on the International Rugby Board website.
Rokocoko played at the Hong Kong Sevens before and the prospect of him returning in a full-strength New Zealand team will give other teams sleepless nights. But Tietjens will have to make his choices carefully as he can only pick one player from each franchise.
'This means that if I were to pick Joe Rokocoko, for example, I wouldn't be able to pick Mils Muliaina as well,' said Tietjens. But he will be counting his blessings for in previous years Tietjens has not been allowed to pick any Super 12 player for his sevens squad.
But with this being a World Cup year, the NZRU has made an exception and given Tietjens first choice of players for the Hong Kong event from March 18 to 20.
Tietjens will be an interested observer when the Super 12 squads from New Zealand - Crusaders, Highlanders, Chiefs, Blues and Hurricanes - are announced at the end of October.
Tietjens, who has been nominated in the 2004 IRB Awards as Coach of the Year, expects that a number of players from the IRB Sevens circuit last season will be selected in the squads of 28. 'I estimate that of the 11 players available to me from last year's sevens, I will only be able to pick four of them,' said Tietjens, who has been the Kiwi sevens coach since 1994.
This season's IRB Sevens will kick off in Dubai on December 2, before moving on to George, South Africa. Tietjens is expected to make further changes to his initial squad after the national sevens championships in January.
New Zealand's preparations for this important season have been underway for some time. Tietjens will have meticulously planned the campaign to win back the IRB Sevens title as well as retain the World Cup.
'Our training methods have evolved in the past couple of years. We do a lot more gym work now than before and that is to increase the physicality.
'Defence is becoming more and more important. The players who are in the squad all have natural talent to play sevens. We need to make them versatile so that they can play in different ways depending on the opposition,' added Tietjens.