Size has become the most valuable commodity in sevens rugby and will form the basis of New Zealand’s Olympic assault, starting this weekend in Wellington.
Veteran supercoach Sir Gordon Tietjens reckons he will field the biggest team under his record-setting reign for this weekend’s third round of the world series.
Sevens first-timer Sonny Bill Williams and other Super Rugby talent such as Ardie Savea, Akira Ioane and Ben Lam have joined regular sevens tall timber Tim Mikkelson and Sam Dickson to ensure the hosts will pack an imposing presence.
Tietjens has previously lamented the lack of outright speedsters available to him but now reckons size is vital, to dominate the all-important possession stakes.
Fiji’s world series triumph last season was built around physical prowess as much as their trademark speed and flair.
“Sitting in the dining room yesterday and I saw the USA team walk through, and they’re huge. It’s the case across all the teams now,” Tietjens said.
“We’ve got a very big team and we certainly want to utilise that to our advantage. And we’ve got to be aware of it as we move through to the Olympics as well.”
Tietjens is set to take a rolling approach to substitutions throughout the tournament to keep his forwards fresh.
He says All Blacks back Williams has been on a steep learning curve since joining his squad last week but, like the other 15-a-side converts, probably won’t be physically ready for the heavy running demands.
“The real challenge is the fitness levels. We’re a little bit behind, to be fair.
“For all those players, getting back into that extra space and all the extra work you have to do – those are the real challenges.”
Another All Black in contention for Rio is Liam Messam, who isn’t in this week’s 12-man squad but has played an assistant role at trainings.
Tietjens says accomplished flanker Messam has returned from club rugby in Japan with a calf strain but is a chance to be included in the squad to contest next week’s world series tournament in Sydney.