Chang­ing of the guard

Sev­ens pow­er­houses New Zealand and Fiji both have new coaches

7 Days in Dubai - - SPORT -

Ever since the in­cep­tion of the HSBC World Sev­ens Series, two teams have dom­i­nated pro­ceed­ings with Fiji and New Zealand win­ning a com­bined 15 ti­tles from the last 17 sea­sons.

For 22 years New Zealand were led by Gor­don Ti­et­jens, but for the very first time they will ar­rive at the Dubai Sev­ens next month with­out their in­spi­ra­tional leader.

Ti­et­jens left the Ki­wis in Septem­ber to take over the Samoan team, with the All Blacks be­ing led tem­po­rar­ily by Scott Wal­drom and To­masi Cama. New head coach Clark Laid­law will take charge of the side from June 1, 2017.

Mean­while, Fiji will also have a new coach in Gareth Baber fol­low­ing Ben Ryan’s de­ci­sion to step down af­ter lead­ing the Pa­cific Is­lan­ders to Olympic gold in Rio.

Fiji claimed the ti­tle in Dubai last year and in 2013, while New Zealand are six-time win­ners in the UAE.

But af­ter ap­point­ing new coaches, for­mer New Zealand sev­ens cap­tain Karl Te Nana be­lieves a new cham­pion could emerge on De­cem­ber 3.

“It’ll be in­ter­est­ing to see in Dubai how the play­ers re­act to the new coaches be­cause they would have to start afresh again and try to put their marks on their teams,” he told the Straits Times.

“The teams who haven’t changed their coaches are prob­a­bly go­ing to have a leg up on the oth­ers.”

One team who could prove a threat in Dubai are Eng­land, who lost in last year’s fi­nal to Fiji.

They have kept head coach Si­mon Amor and will look to make an early state­ment hav­ing been drawn in the same group as New Zealand, Rus­sia and Samoa.

Eng­land have tri­umphed on four oc­ca­sions in Dubai, with their last suc­cess com­ing in 2011.

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