Tietjens retires after 22 years as New Zealand sevens coach

BY foxsports • September 5, 2016

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) Gordon Tietjens is retiring as New Zealand's rugby sevens coach after 22 years during which he played a major role in the development of a sport which made its Olympics debut this year.

The 60-year-old Tietjens told a news conference Tuesday it was time for someone with new ideas to take charge of the New Zealand team.

His retirement follows New Zealand's unsuccessful campaign at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. New Zealand was widely considered as a strong medal chance but lost its opening match to Japan before being eliminated by gold medalist Fij in the quarterfinals.

While New Zealand, under Tietjens, has won the Sevens World Series 12 times since its inception in 1999, it has not won the title for the past two years.

Tietjens also coached New Zealand to four Commonwealth Games gold medals and is credited with spotting and developing a number of top players, including the All Blacks greats Jonah Lomu and Christian Cullen.

He received a New Zealand knighthood for his services to rugby in 2013 and was the first sevens coach to be inducted into the International Rugby Board's hall of fame.

But he struggled to maintain his record of success in recent seasons as international sevens became more competitive. Fiji focused its resources on the sevens program, aiming for its first Olympic medal, under English coach Ben Ryan. And nations which had previously taken the sport lightly began to devote more resources to its development after it became an Olympics sport.

Tietjens was also left to cope with a dwindling supply of players in New Zealand as many top players shunned the game to concentrate on their 15s international or Super Rugby careers. The prospect of an Olympics was thought likely to lure leading players back to sevens but Sonny Bill Williams and Liam Messam were the only All Blacks to commit to the Olympic campaign.

Tietjens has been a significantly influential figure in the evolution of world sevens and many other coaches have copied his tactics and training methods. But it was also clear in the last two years that the game has continued to evolve beyond him.

His concentration in recent seasons on size over pace has not been effective and was part of the reason for New Zealand's failure at Rio de Janiero.

Tietjens still sees the Olympics as the high point of his coaching reign.

''That was the pinnacle of my career,'' he said. ''I was certainly going to consider retiring after then. I had probably done my time and it was time for someone else to come through.

''It has been a great, great journey obviously with a lot of success along the way and a lot of great, enjoyable times.''