x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Forbes can go all the way to become an All Blacks great

New Zealand captain DJ Forbes has what it takes to become a full All Black. That is the opinion of Gordon Tietjens, New Zealand's coaching king-maker.

New Zealand captain DJ Forbes has what it takes to become a full All Black. That is the opinion of Gordon Tietjens, New Zealand's coaching king-maker. Forbes beat off competition from Fabian Juries and Uale Mai to be named the IRB International Sevens Player of the Year 2008 at the annual awards ceremony in London on Saturday. The prize was due reward after he guided the New Zealanders to five successive tournament wins and a 47-match winning streak at the start of last season.

The 101kg, 6ft 2in captain, who plays prop in the short form of the game and flanker in 15s, is the perfect representation of a super-fit Tietjens disciple. Tietjens set players of the ilk of Jonah Lomu and Joe Rokocoko on the path to greatness in the past, and Forbes is his latest leading light. However, he is 26 next month and, given his success in the abridged version of the game, he could bec- ome pidgeonholed as a sevens specialist.

Tietjens thinks that would be a harsh assessment of Forbes's talents. "He could be an All Black, for sure. He is a great 15s player as well," said the 52-year-old coach. "He is huge, and a key part of what we have achieved. I have had some great captains, in Eric Rush, Liam Messam and now DJ Forbes. "He certainly deserved to win the IRB player of the year award, and watching him training this morning he is a player who leads by example. Nothing changes."

Tietjens recently signed a new two-year deal, which encompasses the World Cup in Dubai next March as well the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. His side have arrived in Dubai as comprehensive favourites to retain their crown, yet Tietjens has been keen to play down the expectations on his them. There will be seven new faces in the 12-man squad who open their campaign against Wales at 9.30am today. The are all virtually entirely unknown to anyone, but Tietjens has an incredible eye for talent.

Many of his most successful proteges were spotted playing in local touch rugby competitions in rural New Zealand. He added: "I have got some very talented players who are certainly going to go a long way in New Zealand rugby. "Whether it is too early or not, it is difficult to judge when you have 18 and 19-year-olds as they are still maturing. It is about gathering experience." pradley@thenational.ae