All Blacks Sevens reaping benefits of new centralised program ahead of World Cup

No balls, no boots, no coaches, just mates.

New Zealand's men's sevens team is reaping the benefits of the drastic changes made following the disappointing outing at the Rio Olympics two years ago.

Contracted players in the All Blacks Sevens program are now centralised for nine months in Mount Maunganui.

The program had previously pulled players in from around the country for short camps.

“I suppose we found that prior to the Comm Games, we probably got to know each other a bit better than other teams probably would, and you know (that) benefited us,” Kurt Baker said.

This year's Commonwealth Games gold was proof the men are closing the gap on teams that've been centralised for years.

New Zealand is still the most successful sevens team in history, but after five dismal years, it was clear the game had evolved while the All Blacks sevens did not.

“I spent the first five odd years by myself off down in Christchurch training, I guess it was pretty hard to personally improve my rugby because obviously being the only one down there,” Sam Dickson said.

"That was a bit annoying to come here and then get straight off the plane and have to do a old fashioned beep test and a phosphate test with Tietj - so don't miss doing that.”

For a boy from Christchurch there could be worse things than moving to the high tech facilities in Mount Maunganui.

The package also includes quality training facilities which are all located at Blake Park, but players say it's the bonds and friendships that are key.

“I think we're creating an environment now that people want to be a part of. And you know it might take time but we're on the right track anyway,” Baker said.

They reckon they've got the right recipe for success ahead of the Sevens World Cup in San Francisco next week.

The men's sevens program is making major gains away from the field with contracted players now centralised in Mt Maunganui. Source: 1 NEWS



World Rugby urges players to cover tattoos at Japan 2019 to 'respect the culture' and avoid offence

World Rugby organisers have advised players competing at the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup, as well as supporters, to cover up any tattoos in public to avoid causing offence, with markings easily mistaken to be associated with Yakuza, a Japanese mafia.

There is also an education programme put in place by the organisers, which gives information about appropriate footwear to wear indoor and outdoors.

Head of the Rugby World Cup Alan Gilpin says the Japanese people will be aware that there will be players not accustomed to Japan's culture.

"We will make (Japanese) people aware around the facilities that players will use in the country that people with tattoos in a Rugby World Cup context are not part of the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia," said Gilpin.

"That's where the issue comes from. We have done a lot in the last year or so with the teams to get them to understand that.

"When we raised it with the teams a year or so ago we were probably expecting a frustrated reaction from them but there hasn't been at all. That is a great tribute to the sport itself and to the rugby players themselves."

Gilpin also said players with tattoos are expected to cover up by wearing a vest when swimming in a public pool.

"They all also buy into the idea of putting on a rash-vest in the pool or in a gym as they want to respect the Japanese culture. If they are using a public pool they will have to cover up.

"Players will also have to wear different trainers indoors and outdoors. It will all be self-policing. We won't force any teams to cover up but they will want to because they want to be seen to be respecting the culture.

"Whether it is Scotland, Ireland, Wales or Italy, who have all been there recently, they all get it, they really do."

Beauden Barrett celebrates his try with Aaron Smith.
2nd Bledisloe Cup Test of the 2018 Investec Rugby Championship.
New Zealand All Blacks v Australia (Wallabies) at Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand on 25 August 2018.
Copyright photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.nz
Beauden Barrett celebrates with Aaron Smith. Source: Photosport

The Rugby World Cup begins on September 20 in 2019 with the opening match to be played between the host nation Japan and Russia at Tokyo Stadium.

Dejected All Blacks Rieko Ioane and TJ Perenara seen after their team's loss during the 2018 Rugby Championship between All Blacks vs South Africa at Westpac Stadium in Wellington, Saturday 15th September 2018. Copyright Photo: Raghavan Venugopal / © www.Photosport.nz 2018
Dejected All Blacks Rieko Ioane and TJ Perenara seen after their team's loss during the 2018 Rugby Championship between All Blacks vs South Africa at Westpac Stadium in Wellington. Source: Photosport

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Wallabies legend backs under-fire Cheika to lead team to another strong World Cup campaign

Thursday marks one year till the start of the 2019 Rugby World Cup but former Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock is urging Australian fans not to panic.

Even if they have every right to.

"They've still got time," Mortlock told AAP when asked if under-fire coach Michael Cheika had the capacity to arrest the Wallabies' alarming decline from 2015 finalists to an all-time low ranking of seventh in the world following Saturday's sobering loss to Argentina.

"You've only got to look at the last World Cup. 'Cheik' only had the team for less than 12 months.

"So it can be done.

"It's more a case of what's happening now and the systemic issues that are creating the poor results of late.

"That's probably more the question: What specifically do they need to do better to consistently turns these defeats around?

"A lot of them are quite narrow, barring the ones against New Zealand."

The concern for Mortlock is the Wallabies' troubles are widespread, though not necessarily deep rooted - and certainly not irreversible.

Australia's 2007 World Cup captain nominated the Wallabies' inconsistent defensive displays, ill-discipline, "robotic" attack and long-running lineout woes as the four chief issues holding Cheika's side back.

"It can be turned around and, once things start falling in place, it can happen quite quickly," Mortlock said.

"However, there's four things I've highlighted that need to be consistently done at a high level when it matters the most. That's Test-match footy.

"But questions need to be asked a little bit about these facets of our game because they've been off - and they're considerably off."

Just how off is evident in the Wallabies' dreadful record against the top-tier nations since he took the helm in October, 2014.

Since then, Australia are two from 11 against the top-ranked All Blacks, one from five against world No.2 Ireland and one from seven against Eddie Jones' England, who the Wallabies haven't beaten since the 2015 World Cup.

The Wallabies have also lost their past two encounters with Scotland and beaten South Africa only once in their past four starts before slumping to their first defeat to Argentina on home soil in 35 years.

All up, the Wallabies have an unflattering 50 per cent winning strike rate under Cheika - 26 wins from 52 Tests.

The good news is they are a combined seven from seven against their 2019 World Cup Pool D rivals Wales (4-0), Fiji (2-0), Uruguay (1-0) and Georgia since his appointment.

Only a complete disaster would stop the two-time champions and four-time World Cup finalists from safely progressing to the knockout stages in Japan.

Even a loss and finishing second in their pool wouldn't be the end of the world given Australia's quarter-final opponents will be tough regardless, coming from Pool C's group of death containing England, Argentina, France, Tonga and the USA.

In any case, Mortlock maintains Cheika is the man to lead the Wallabies to the global showpiece despite calls for his head growing louder.

"Cheika's a fantastic championship coach," Mortlock said.

"He's really good at getting everybody aligned and armed and ready to go in to battle for something unique and obviously now that's the World Cup in the next 12 months.

"That's going to be his sole focus and I'd argue he's in his element when he's got something really specific to focus on.

"If I go back to prior to him getting the last World Cup coaching gig, when he took the Waratahs to the (Super Rugby) championship in 2014, there were a lot of things that he did that were effective.

"He has an ability to galvanise the team to go hard towards an end goal.

"So he went very well in 2015 with limited preparation so I very much think he's still the right man to steer us through a campaign."

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika during the Wallabies Captain's Run at Eden Park ahead of this weekend's Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship match in Auckland. Friday 14 August 2015. Copyright Photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.Photosport.nz
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika Source: Photosport


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