Arise Sir Titch - Tietjens knighted in NZ
With the touch of a sword on each shoulder by the Governor-General Jerry Mateparae, All Blacks Sevens coach Gordon Tietjens officially became a knight yesterday in New Zealand's capital, Wellington.
Tietjens was included in the Queen's birthday honours list after leading his country to an 11th World Series title.
Already widely recognised for his outstanding contribution to Rugby not just within New Zealand but also around the world, the title bestowed of 'Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the national sport' was a fitting accolade.
"It is a huge honour. To me, being knighted is a real reward for sevens rugby and the way it's climbing up on the global scene. It's a massive sport now going to the Olympics in 2016," Tietjens told Fairfax NZ News.
"Winning the tournaments is great because that's why we're in the game, but the younger players who launch their careers, that's special to me," he said after being congratulated by family and close friends.
Having not missed a single tournament since the inception of the IRB Sevens World Series back in 1999, Tietjens has captured 11 of the 14 World Series titles available.
Under his watch, New Zealand has also won two Rugby World Cup Sevens, in 2001 and 2013, and all four Commonwealth Games gold medals contested in 1998, 2002, 2006 and 2010.
He has nurtured hundreds of players, whether as a scout, a coach, a disciplinarian, a nutitionist or a tactician. The number of players he has helped become All Blacks stands at close to 40 and, indeed, seven of the players involved in the All Blacks' latest test win against the Springboks came through Tietjens' tutelage.
"It's not about one person in our side, it's not about relying on those players with the X-factor. I have a favourite saying and that is 'whoever plays will do the job',” he said.
"We've probably got the fittest rugby players in New Zealand. They work harder than any rugby player in New Zealand and that unifies them. My training sessions are probably harder than any game they'll ever play and that's a real key to that unity as it brings us close.
"We enjoy ourselves but the jersey means everything and it's the fear of losing that is instilled into them as well."
In 2012 Tietjens also became the first inductee into the IRB's Hall of Fame to be singled out for services to Rugby Sevens.
"It is a wonderful and appropriate tribute for Gordon Tietjens, an IRB Hall of Fame inductee and the world’s most successful international Rugby coach, to be recognised for his services to New Zealand Rugby with a knighthood," said IRB Chairman, Bernard Lapasset.
"Throughout his career he has promoted Rugby’s character-building values, not only to his players but also to many of the other sides in international competition through his high standards, which have permeated through the Sevens game. I would like to congratulate him on this very special achievement.”
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