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Change among the world's Sevens coaching ranks

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irb.com and James Mortimer     02 Oct 2013     allblacks.com

. Whether they wanted to or not, this year they have.

Despite more than half of the major Sevens nations making changes to their coaching teams, the All Blacks Sevens will enter the season with a stable back room outfit, with Sir Gordon Tietjens keen to guide his team to a defence of their IRB title.

Maybe it's a sign of the times but this exciting, new Olympic era for Rugby Sevens is bringing with it a new wave of professionalism right across the board. More is expected of the players and so too the men and women in charge of them.

While coaching appointments are all still being made with long-term goals in mind, there's no question that it's a more brutal environment to work in than ever. Union bosses want both performance and development from their programmes, while National Olympic Committees are keen to see a return on their investment.

Closer to home, with the action beamed around the world on TV, fans and media also want - even expect - to see their teams reaching the final stages of what are increasingly competitive tournaments.

To have so many of the top-ranked men's coaches on the HSBC Sevens World Series replaced ahead of this season has been extraordinary, perhaps even coincidental. Still, the fact remains that only one of last season's top six is still sitting where he was in June - Sir Gordon Tietjens. And history tells us that Titch delivers nothing if not a return on investment.

Paul Treu is no longer with South Africa after three Cup titles and a second-place finish last season, to be replaced by either Neil Powell or Vuyo Zanqa. Alifereti Dere is no longer coach of third-placed Fiji, replaced by Englishman Ben Ryan.

Fourth wasn't enough for Samoa's Fa'amoni Lalomilo, the country's former Under 20 coach Viliamu Punivalu given the task of breathing new and perhaps younger life into the former Series winners.

Mike Friday parted company with fifth-ranked Kenya, who are yet to name their long-term replacement, and another former England captain, Simon Amor, was appointed to succeed Ryan in the England post.

Add to those the appointments of Matt Hawkins for the USA, Santiago Gomez Cora for Argentina, Santiago Santos for Spain, Pedro Netto Fernandes for Portugal and Tim Walsh as Australia's new women's coach and you start to appreciate the dizzying extent of the merri-go-round that's just winding to a stop for the start of the season.
IRB Sevens World back on TV

All of this, and more, features in the first episode of the new 'IRB Sevens World' television Series, which is out this week.

As well as looking ahead to a fresh season on both the HSBC Sevens World Series and IRB Women's Series, the first of 15 shows dedicated to Sevens reports on the recent knighthood of 'Sir Titch' in Wellington and the inaugural Welsh National Sevens with the views of the country's head coach, Paul John.

There's also a sit-down with Ben Ryan, who talks candidly about arguably the highest profile of all those coaching changes - his own switch from England to Fiji.

"People have always asked me who I would like to coach if it wasn't England and I've always given the same answer - Fiji - and I'm incredibly lucky that I've been given that opportunity now," Ryan tells the programme.

He also talks about Fiji inspiring the sporting world in the lead-up to Rio 2016 and even refers to their 'journey', a term which seems to have crept into common parlance among Sevens coaches over the past 12 months. No wonder, perhaps, with all the travel they do.