New Zealand team takes positive attitude into World Cup     06 Mar 2009    

The New Zealand team open their campaign against Italy at 7.54pm Dubai time (Friday 4.54am NZ time).

Coach Gordon Tietjens says the team’s injury problems in 2009 have been the worst he has encountered in his 16 years coaching the New Zealand side.

No less than five of his national squad were ruled out of the tournament prior to selection, two others – captain DJ Forbes and playmaker Tomasi Cama – missed the latest San Diego tournament, and his prospective Rebel Sport Super 14 picks all had injury trouble.

The Blues Rudi Wulf had been in contention until he was sidelined with injury, the Chiefs Sosene Anesi was ruled out with a hamstring injury at the pre-World Cup training camp, and the Hurricanes’ Victor Vito made the trip, but had to overcome a calf strain to be declared fit for the weekend.

Vito had only just been cleared when Wellington’s Tu Umaga Marshall had to be ruled out with a lower back strain only 36 hours before the tournament opener. Fellow Wellingtonian Julian Savea, who had been called to Dubai on standby for Vito, will take Umaga-Marshall’s place in the team.

“There’s no doubt we have had serious injury problems,” says Tietjens.

“But I have a saying that who ever plays will do the job and I back these guys to perform well.”

Tietjens believes the World Cup is wide open with any one of half a dozen teams able to go the whole way.

“I think England, South Africa and Fiji are all strong chances, while Samoa could threaten and Argentina come into the tournament having won the San Diego leg.”

The key to playing well in the tournament, he says, is to get off to a strong start.

“We have pretty much a new squad so it’s important for our confidence that we start well and points are going to be important both to secure a spot in the quarterfinals and for seedings in the playoffs.”

The six pool winners advance to the quarter finals along with the next two best pool runners-up.

Tietjens mantra of defence winning tournaments also holds. “If your defence is really working, attack will take care of itself.”

New Zealand won its only Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2001 when the team beat Australia in the final in Mar del Plata.

This year’s Tournament is doubly important as it will also be the backdrop to the IRB’s international campaign to have rugby added to the Olympic Games.

“Sevens rugby is huge and the Rugby World Cup is a big part of the push towards the Olympics. So it’s important that the tournament goes well. We’re looking forward to it.”

New Zealand Team Schedule:

5 March v Italy 7.54pm Dubai / 4.54am NZ (6th March)

6 March v Arabian Gulf 11.00am Dubai / 8.00pm NZ

V Tonga 7.28pm Dubai / 4.28am NZ (7th March)

7 March Finals Day

The New Zealand Sevens RWC squad is: Tomasi Cama (Manawatu), DJ Forbes (Captain, Counties Manukau), Paul Grant (Otago), Nigel Hunt (Bay of Plenty), Zar Lawrence (Bay of Plenty), Tim Nanai Williams (Counties Manukau), Lote Raikabula (Manawatu), Julian Savea (Wellington), Ben Souness (Taranaki), Chad Tuoro (Counties Manukau), Victor Vito (Wellington), Viliame Waqaseduadua (North Harbour).

The Rugby World Cup Sevens takes place at Dubai’s ‘The Sevens’ stadium from March 5-7.