Kiwis look to rebuild

PUBLISHED : Friday, 31 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 31 March, 2006, 12:00am

Six Super 14 players who helped the team win in Melbourne have returned to their clubs, presenting a new challenge for Tietjens

On a cold and miserable Monday morning at So Kon Po the New Zealand squad began their first training session in Hong Kong.

Veteran coach Gordon Tietjens called the shots and ran his eye over their every move, but what he saw was a very different set of players to the ones who two weeks earlier had won the Commonwealth Games sevens crown after beating England 29-21 in the final.

The six Super 14 players who proved the backbone of his side in Melbourne were back with their clubs and now Tietjens had an altogether new group to gel together as a team.

A player who has remained, however, is Corey Jane.

Totally unheralded before he appeared in the Commonwealth Games, his performances there marked him out for future reference.

Jane scored five tries in the tournament and played a major role in his side's 21-19 win over Australia in the semi-final.

He then scored the crucial first try in the final against England and is now looking to make a name for himself in Hong Kong.

'I'd already played in the Wellington and Los Angeles Sevens but playing in a Commonwealth Games final in front of such a big crowd was something else,' he said.

'It's then you realise that you can mix it with the best of them and it really boosts your confidence. In the semi-final we played Australia, who of course had huge support in Melbourne and had the likes of Lote Tuqiri and Chris Latham in their side.

'I was more nervous about that match than the final itself. Once we won that I couldn't wait for the final, and I'm hoping for the same result in Hong Kong.'

Jane, 23, plays his club rugby with Upper Hutt and broke into the Wellington Lions NPC side at fullback last season but, just as he was going places, he broke his thumb and it ruled him out until the last game, against Taranaki.

His chances of playing rugby at the highest level looked to have gone but in stepped Tietjens and, as he has done on so many occasions in the past, spotted Jane's potential at the New Zealand national sevens tournament and took him under his wing. Before he knew it Jane was involved in the international sevens squad and since making the side in the Wellington Sevens he hasn't looked back.

'Playing sevens for New Zealand has really opened a few doors for me and playing alongside our Super 14 players in the Commonwealth Games was a big learning curve as well,' he said.

'But the way the team has changed I'm suddenly one of the experienced players and I'll be doing my best to help out the guys who have just joined the squad.

'In the future I just hope I can continue to stay injury-free. My aim is to get my place back on the Wellington Lions NPC team and then try to move up to the Hurricanes Super 14 side from there.'

As well as Jane, the other survivors of the side who won Commonwealth Games gold are captain Tafai Ioasa, Nigel Hunt, Lote Raikabula and Alando Soakai.

All will need to be at the top of their game if New Zealand are going to be a force in this weekend's tournament.

Squad: Charles Baxter, Edwin Cocker, D.J. Forbes, Craig Hudson, Nigel Hunt, Tafai Ioasa, Cory Jane, Lachie Munro, Hayden Reid, Lote Raikabula, Alando Soakai, Dwayne Sweeney.