NZ: Sevens will change rugby landscape
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The inclusion of Sevens in the Olympic Games will change the landscape of the sport, according to veteran New Zealand player DJ Forbes and coach Gordon Tietjens.
Forbes has been at the head of a Kiwi outfit that has shone on the world Sevens circuit, often watching as teammates are plucked for what was long considered the ultimate compliment in New Zealand, pulling on the jersey of the full All Blacks team in Xvs.
But that could all be about to change, Forbes said ahead of the Sevens tournament in Rio.
"It's going to change the landscape in terms of XVs and Sevens," the flank predicted of Sevens' debut in Rio.
"In New Zealand there's every little kid growing up wanting to be All Blacks.
"But after this Olympics and probably the next one there's going to be more kids wanting to grow up to be rugby Olympians."
The Olympic bug has certainly caught the imagination of Tietjens, whose side will be battling with the likes of favourites Fiji, South Africa, Australia and Britain for gold.
"It's the pinnacle of my career, going to the Olympics," he said.
"I've been to five Commonwealth Games and to come to the Olympics is certainly something special.
"You're up against the best and you've got to be the best to go out and get that gold medal."
Life amid the hustle and bustle of the Olympic Village, the veteran coach insisted, would be a prime motivating factor rather than any kind of distracting spoiler.
"It's exciting for the players to be involved with some of the best sportspeople in the world," he said.
"It's going to motivate them to get out there and perform. There's always that mutual respect ... in the village at all times with all athletes because they've worked tremendously hard to get here to represent their country.
"It's a positive in a way because it puts the emphasis on going out there and winning gold."
But Tietjens, who has coached the New Zealand Sevens since 1994, admitted that that was not going to be an easy feat.
"In the World Series, we saw six different countries win tournaments last year. Basically it's anyones tournament."
Turning to the post-Olympic future of Sevens, the coach who has seen former charges Christian Cullen, Jonah Lomu, Joe Rockocoko, Mils Muliania, Rico Gear, Cory Janes, Ben Smith and Liam Messam go on to star for the All Blacks was optimistic.
"We have a pretty congested rugby progamme. We have Super Rugby and the Under-20s which is used as pathway also to go on to become an All Black, Sevens is becoming a specialised sport," he said.
"Every player that plays for my All Blacks Sevens team aspires to be a XV-a-side All Black.
"We've had 46 players who've come through the Sevens system and become fully-fledged All Blacks.
"We've got lots of rugby players in New Zealand but not lots of Sevens players. With the Olympics, that will provide attraction for a lot of athletes to really put their hands up to play Sevens perhaps."