Coach Gordon Tietjens declared Deodoro Stadium fit and ready for the return of rugby to the Olympic Games after making his first inspection this morning.
The coach and key playmakers Augustine Pulu, Gillies Kaka, and Joe Webber made the 30-minute ride to the stadium which is located in a military suburb on the outskirts of the Olympic host city.
“I was pretty excited to find when I got there that it’s an impressive set up and will have a wonderful atmosphere as a sevens tournament,” said Tietjen’s at the team’s arrival media conference.
However, the New Zealanders have suffered an injury blow with Bay of Plenty centre Teddy Stanaway ruled out of the games after breaking his hand during a training game against the USA at their Florida camp. He has been replaced by travelling reserve Lewis Ormond (Taranaki). Former All Black Liam Messam is also winging his way to Rio as an additional replacement player.
“It’s really unfortunate. He worked so hard to make the side,” said Tietjens. “It was devastating for him and he took it so well, as well as he could. He’s a proud guy and we’re really disappointed for him.”
Sonny Bill Williams was a huge drawcard at today’s conference, telling the world’s media how special it was to be at his first Olympics.
“As an athlete there is no higher level than the Olympics. I’m just fortunate enough that Titch gave me a shot at the start of the year and I was fortunate enough to learn off these boys and train my butt off. Just like the rest of the boys we want to be successful.”
He’s now loving the new life as an Olympian in the village.
“It’s been really cool seeing so much athletes and how fit they are, that they are hungry for success and just try and use that as motivation, not get caught up in everything is going on, but realise the real reason we are here and that’s to compete.”
For Tietjens, it’s the peak of his career after five Commonwealth Games and 12 World Series titles.
“You are up against the best and you have to be the best to go out to win a gold medal. It’s amazing when you see the number of talented athletes in the village and what they aspire to do at these Games and the sheer hard work you have to put in.”Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games Rieko Ioane Sonny Bill Williams Scott Curry Tim Mikkelson DJ Forbes Rugby - Sevens