Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Orene Ai'i of Racing Club of Lagos during the Dubai Rugby Sevens.
Orene Ai'i of Racing Club of Lagos during the Dubai Rugby Sevens.

Ai'i still has what it takes to play for New Zealand

Former rugby sevens Player of the Year is a guest for Racing Club of Lagos at Dubai Sevens.

DUBAI // Gordon Tietjens, the New Zealand coach, says the door is open to a return for Orene Ai'i, who is regarded as one of the finest players ever to play the short-form - seven years after he left the world circuit.

The 2005 world sevens Player of the Year is back in Dubai this weekend, playing third-tier rugby as a guest for the Nigerian side Racing Club of Lagos.

On the evidence of their opening pool match against Almaty in the International Open last night, he has lost little of the old panache.

He played three no-look, round-the-back passes, and was even kicking touchline conversions both left and right-footed in the 24-7 victory.

His form this weekend is unlikely to go unnoticed within the New Zealand hierarchy, who are aware of his interest in making a belated comeback to top-flight sevens.

"Orene Ai'i is an outstanding rugby player," said Tietjens, whose All Blacks sevens side begin their campaign against Wales at 10.36am today.

"Watching him play ITM Cup in New Zealand, he still has all the talent and skill sets. He is a special player, looks after himself, and knows the game of sevens inside out.

"He is throwing a few hints out there and he may [attempt to earn selection]. He may turn up in Queenstown [trials] and be very, very good - you never say never.

"He does offer a huge array of skills that can be complementary to my sevens team."

The player himself, who has been training with Auckland's sevens side, is intent on pressing his claims for a recall at national trials in New Zealand.

He initially left after being offered terms to play XVs rugby in Japan, having made his name on the sevens circuit, then went on to play for Toulon in France.

Ai'i, who would provide New Zealand with an alternative to Tomasi Cama, who remains one of the leading creative forces in the game, said a return to Pitch One duty at next year's Sevens should not be ruled out.

"I have missed it," the 33-year-old playmaker said last night. "To be back playing it with these boys, I have really got that buzz back again.

"I have no regrets at leaving when I did. I left on a high note, gave my family the chance to see the world, and we saw the financial benefits of it, too. But watch this space."


Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 Glenn Maxwell's knock that followed ensured Brendon McCullum's knock went in vain after his explosive half-century took Chennai Super Kings past the 200-mark. Ravindranath K / The National

All is well with Punjab as Maxwell and Miller seal win against Chennai

The Australian missed out on a century but his 95 runs, along with Miller's unbeaten half-century, ensured Kings XI scaled a mighty peak of a target in a hot first game of Abu Dhabi's double-header.

 Sunderland manager Gus Poyet protests during the Premier League match against Crystal Palace at The Stadium of Light in Sunderland, northeast England, on March 15, 2014. Ian MacNicol / AFP

Sunderland going out of Premier League with a grumble

Northeast club have underwhelmed during seven-year stay in the top flight

 Hamburg players leave the field after the match against Borussia Moenchengladbach on March 30, 2014. AFP

Hamburg the dinosaur’s time may be up in Bundesliga

Ever-present for 51 years in the German top-flight, Hamburg face the prospect of relegation, writes Ian Hawkey.

 At 105 kg, Gabrielle Garcia has dominated the world circuit and loves many things about being in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National

Garcia seeks fresh challenge in MMA after her jiu-jitsu domination

Brazilian prides being a lioness in the sport but feels she can shed 25kg weight to pursue her MMA debut aspirations.

 England's Jonathan Trott hits out during the ICC Champions Trophy semi final match against South Africa at The Oval cricket ground, London June 19, 2013. REUTERS/Philip Brown

England’s Jonathan Trott sidelined with stress-related illness again

Jonathan Trott is to take a second break from professional cricket because of his stress-related illness as England and Wales Cricket Board and Warwickshire confirmed he will stop playing with immediate effect.

 Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho looks on during the Premier League match between Swansea City and Chelsea at the Liberty Stadium on April 13, 2014 in Swansea, Wales. Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

‘That’s why we are a top club’ says Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech

Jose Mourinho’s men will temporarily claim the Premier League top spot if they beat Sunderland, leaving them in control of their own destiny in the title race ahead of a crucial trip to face Liverpool at Anfield on April 27.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National