Is it time for Gordon Tietjens to give up the reins of New Zealand 7s?

Is it time for Gordon Tietjens to give up the reins of New Zealand 7s?

The Kiwi press continue to rage about the fall-out of New Zealand 7s losses in Rio and they want a change

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New Zealand Rugby were having various meetings last week and this question should be near the top of the list. Sevens has almost been airbrushed out of the national picture since the Rio disaster, when it should be what everyone is talking about. It is in Fiji.

The Rio sevens were the unexpected success story of the Olympics. Even the American media got involved, But for New Zealand, and especially the men's team, the competition was an embarrassment. Quite a few people sniggered when Japan beat South Africa at the World Cup, but the joke suddenly wasn't so funny when they did the same to the 'All Blacks' sevens team.

Some people wanted to remove the All Blacks moniker from association with sevens. They wanted to pretend it hadn't happened when what we really need to do is recognise the importance of sevens to New Zealand's kids, to our women and to the history of the All Blacks. Jonah Lomu would never have stunned the world at the 1995 World Cup without making his name at sevens.

So looking back on Rio we should see a string of broken promises and demand better of this country's rugby administration. Where was Damian McKenzie, where was Beauden Barrett, where was Julian and Ardie Savea, where was Ben Smith, where were all this country's song and dance men when we should have been putting on a show for the world?

Steve Tew promised us, "We've said we will pick the best team possible to win a gold in Rio."

Did you see that happen?

Steve Hansen said that Tietjens "will have a plan with what he wants to do and we've got to support that."

Did you see that happen?

Right now we should be getting answers as to what went so catastrophically wrong. NZR should be appointing a coach for the future and promising that they will hand over players to the sevens programme at the end of the 2019 World Cup.

So far all I have heard is Tietjens' excuse that New Zealand lost because it didn't have a centralised programme. Cue centralised laughter. Leaving aside the fact that the Great Britain squad had to merge the English core with players from Scotland and Wales at the last minute, let's take a look at Fiji's 'centralised programme'.

When Ben Ryan was appointed coach of Fiji in 2013, his pay packet mysteriously never materialised. So for the first few months he paid his own way. He also paid for the petrol for the team bus. In 2014 Fiji's players weren't under contract and were all working jobs because they weren't being paid.

Ryan said, "There was no point in my kicking up a fuss. I'd agreed to something, and I was going to keep to my word. We didn't have any resources at home for the basics of running things, like bottled water, petrol to get us to training, rugby balls or any expenses for the players. Staff were let go as well."

What Fiji did have was centralised poverty. Its funding had been suspended by World Rugby. And after the prime minister had finally made some money available ahead of the Olympics, the country was hit by cyclone Winston. The islands were devastated by 295 km winds. Forty-four people lost their lives. Some players were left homeless.

So when Sir Gordon points to the lack of a centralised programme as the cause of New Zealand's demise, it is hard not to wonder if he has lost the plot. The man has done great things for New Zealand sevens.

Bernard Lapasset credited Tietjens as the inspiration behind rugby's return to the Olympics. His teams have won four Commonwealth gold medals. He has set the standard for two generations of All Blacks.

And now his contract and his time is up.

Tietjens failed to provide an environment that the likes of Ardie Savea were desperate to stay in. He gambled on an attritional style of rugby and his team were run off their feet. His legendary fitness methods contributed to the type of fatigue that leads to bodies snapping under stress.

In April last year Julian Savea said he was "really keen" to go to the Olympics.

What happened? He could have done a Lomu. 20 years ago I think Tietjens would have embraced him. He would have made playing sevens part of a fun education. Savea could have found some purpose in his life.

He could have found some joy in Rio.

Instead, like so many, he did not go. Tew said he offered Ben Smith to Tietjens at the end of June but Tietjens didn't want him. He didn't want Kurt Baker, either, even though Baker had played more sevens minutes this year than anyone.

Tietjens, having run Baker into the ground, said he was compromised by injury. Baker said, "I felt quite used."

Tietjens says the pressure was too much for his young players. It didn't used to be, not for Jonah, or Christian Cullen or Cory Jane or even Julian Savea. New Zealand used to play with a smile on its face. Where did that smile go?

Hansen says "We've just got to make sure we don't paper over things - we've got to look at it honestly and genuinely as a rugby-playing group, the sevens, the All Blacks and the rugby union itself, and see how we can do it better because it's an opportunity to showcase rugby from New Zealand."

Somewhere in Fiji an 80-year-old man is walking eight hours to a training session so that he can shake the hand of a red-haired, bespectacled Englishman.

This is the team that played together and prayed together. Fiji has much to teach us about joy, faith and humility. That's how we can do it better.