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Tietjens: Time to look at preparation

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Sportal.co.nz     03 Feb 2013     Getty Images

The All Black Sevens were bundled out of their home tournament by Kenya in the semi-finals after below par performances over the two days.

New Zealand had an opening day loss to eventual champions England, a solid win against Spain and a patchy victory over the United States to book themselves a spot in the Cup quarter-finals.

A better performance in that match against Australia resulted in a 24-5 win before too many errors in the semi-final allowed Kenya to overturn a 14-0 deficit to win 19-14.

Most of Tietjens' players had not played since the previous round of the HSBC Sevens World Series in South Africa on December 8 and 9 - a break he believes was too long.

Certainly his experience core of Tomasi Cama, Lote Raikabula, DJ Forbes and Tim Mikkelson looked short of a gallop and made some uncharacteristic errors.

"A lot of the players, the core players, weren't playing in any tournaments. They didn't play in the nationals. They didn't play in the provincials so went from South Africa to here really," said the Kiwi coach.

"You need to be playing this game to be good at it. Perhaps next year we'll look at going to a tournament prior to coming to this tournament.

"You've got injuries in the back of your mind but you've just got to get out there and play. You can't wrap them in cotton wool. If the opportunities are there to get some game time then we'll certainly take it."

Tietjens admitted the loss to Kenya had been a painful one for his players. It was the first time since 2010 that they had not made the final.

The small consolation was that despite finishing third - after defeating Samoa 17-7 in the third/fourth playoff - they maintained a healthy lead at the top of the world series standings.

They now hold a 21-point lead over second-placed Kenya while France, South Africa and Fiji, who all had poor tournaments in Wellington, fell off the pace.

"I suppose we've done a lot better than some of the other teams," said Tietjens.

"We've increased our lead in the world series. But I wanted another crack at England to be fair.

"It would have been great to have another opportunity to make up for yesterday and play them in the final.

"You've got to take it on the chin. Those young players will learn from this as well because they are hurting."

The Wellington tournament, the fourth leg on the world series, sprung several surprises - most notably Fiji failing to make the Cup competition for the first time after losing to Scotland and Australia.

The matches were far more competitive across the board - as was clear by the USA holding England to a draw and pushing New Zealand hard in the group stages.
Canada also had an upset win over South Africa.

"I think it's right around the world now," Tietjens said of rising standard. "When you look at some of the teams that have battled over the weekend. You look at Fiji, a country that's probably got more players in the world in sevens rugby than anyone, to go into the Bowl for the first time ever. That was a shock to everyone.

"We're fortunate that we haven't been in that situation yet. And touch wood it doesn't happen."

The series moves on to Las Vegas next weekend. But Tietjens will definitely be without Kurt Baker (hamstring) and possibly captain Forbes who has a knee injury.