The rugby sevens world has long been used to disregarding the one-down-man-ship of the New Zealand coach, Gordon Tietjens. His regular protestations about a lack of preparation time, no warm-up tournaments and having the last dibs on players are usually off-set by the fact he has won everything the sport has to offer, and numerous times over. Yet, for the first time ever, he might have had a case when he brought his side to Dubai for the opening leg of the 2009/10 IRB World Series earlier this month.
"We are underdone," he repeated, without even a hint of wordplay. He quantified it further by referencing the fact that, with Super 14 and national Under 20 players on his contraband list from his union; the best 150 players were off limits to him. And anyway, the New Zealanders had only finished fourth in last year's series, their lowest ever ranking, and South Africa, the series champions, were supposed to be the coming force of the format.
Who were we to doubt him? This is Tietjens after all; Jonah Lomu, Christian Cullen, Joe Rokocoko, eight series titles, two Commonwealth golds, and all that. Normal service was resumed on December 5 when DJ Forbes, his muscle-bound captain, hoisted the Emirates International Trophy to end more than a year without silverware. Wales were also back on the winner's podium at The Sevens this month, but their Bowl title merely confirmed that life was getting back to normal again.
Back in March they had stunned everybody, not least themselves, by carrying off the Melrose Cup as World Cup Sevens winners. "I don't think Wales could even believe it themselves that they were the world champions of sevens," said Lee Byrne, the full-back for the full Wales side. "It was big news for a while." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org