Canes duo confirm they won’t say no to Olympic sevens
16 April, 2015, 6:00 pm
Update: 6:00PM New Zealand sevens coach Gordon Tietjens might have a little more luck calling the Hurricanes with star back Beauden Barrett and Julian Savea both unequivocal in their desire to chase a gold medal at the Rio Olympics.
But it seems New Zealand Rugby still have some way to go before Super Rugby or All Blacks players will be able to say for sure they will be having a tilt at sevens in 2016.
“I’ve told my agent I’m really keen, but I just have to see what happens next year,” Savea said. “I still haven’t signed [with NZ Rugby], but if all goes well I’d be really keen to have a crack at it.”
Similarly, Barrett confirmed he’d officially put his name in the hat, but had not progressed to the point of talking about specifics and had not even spoken to Tietjens.
“Yep, I’ve put my hand up, but I’m focusing on fifteens and playing well for the Canes is where my heads at… I’ve had some discussions with NZ Rugby, but haven’t talked to Titch at all.
“All I know is he’s put a few names up to NZ Rugby around how it could work a few months ago, but there are still a lot of grey areas.”
The pair’s sentiments will be music to Tietjens’ ears at the end of a week that’s seen All Blacks Aaron Cruden and Kieran Read both announce they wouldn’t be available for sevens consideration next season.
Players who decide to play sevens are expected to miss up to six rounds of Super Rugby and possibly the All Blacks’ Rugby Championship campaign and domestic series against Wales.
Savea said that was a difficult sacrifice for any player.body.
It’s something you have to toss up. I haven’t really had time to think about it in full, but in my mind I’m really keen on it [sevens].”
Savea played for the New Zealand sevens team in 2008-09 after leaving Rongotai College and said the possibility of teaming up with his younger brother Ardie at Rio held great appeal.
“I think he’d be pretty keen too. We both love the same things. That’s another thing and if it happened it would be pretty special, but our main focus is the Hurricanes and trying to stay undefeated right now.”
Savea believed it would take a concerted effort to condition himself for international sevens and reckoned he would likely need to shed about 5 kg and change his fitness regime to include more and longer repeated speed sessions.
Barrett said it was impossible to speak with any real certainty about the Olympics until there were more details around how players selected in the sevens squad would be handled.
“It’s a difficult one. I don’t think the All Blacks coaches would like it happening, they’d probably prefer a yes or no right now, but it’s a wee bit too early, too difficult to say until we get some more clarity,” he said.
“For any athlete it [the Olympics] is a once in a lifetime and having a sevens background, that’s where I started and I really like that type of rugby too, quite broken up.
“Then I also love playing for the All Blacks and that’s still the pinnacle. I honestly don’t know how it will play out, there are still a lot of meetings and stuff to happen that are up above us, so I’ll just worry about playing well for the Hurricanes.”
The Hurricanes could potentially be hit hard by Tietjens’ sevens recruitment drive with Barrett, the Savea brothers, Victor Vito, Cory Jane, halfback TJ Perenara, and even twinkle-toed fullback Nehe Milner-Skudder all obvious targets.
Milner-Skudder was flattered by the idea, but said he’d had limited sevens experience with Manawatu and hadn’t had any missed calls from Tietjens.
Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd said he knew which players in his squad had put their hands up, but didn’t see any benefit in announcing them publically.
“I think I’ve said before each player will make his own decision around whether he wants to go to the Olympics, which is a unique and special opportunity that professional high profile rugby players don’t get very often.
“I think the flip side to that is with a number of changes to the All Blacks post the 2015 Rugby World Cup there is a real opportunity in 2016 for players to cement their places for the British and Irish Lions in 2017, so I think there will be a fair bit of deciding to do around which is the best path for them.”