By KELLY EXELBY
Blues rugby discard Joe Rokocoko looks set to regain his tryscoring touch with the All Blacks after overtures from national sevens coach Gordon Tietjens were spurned by All Blacks hierarchy.
Rokocoko had been tipped to link with the New Zealand sevens training squad in Mount Maunganui this week to get some valuable fitness under his belt.
But Tietjens' offer to accommodate the flying winger at the four-day training camp, which started yesterday, wasn't taken up by All Blacks coach Graham Henry.
"I spoke to Graham and made the offer, not necessarily to select him [for the season's last two international tournaments in London and Edinburgh next week] but to get him some fitness and rugby," Tietjens said.
"The opportunity was there for Joe to come down and spend a few days in the sevens environment but it would seem that it is not going to happen."
Two years ago, which was also the last time New Zealand won the IRB sevens world series, Rokocoko was drafted into the sevens training squad at the request of All Blacks management, who left him out of the All Blacks trial and sent him to Tietjens to sharpen his form.
The All Blacks and Junior All Blacks will be announced in Auckland tomorrow, with Rokocoko a near-certainty to be included in the top side, although he could still lose out to Sitiveni Sivivatu, Doug Howlett or Rico Gear.
Tietjens has assembled a squad of 16 at Mount Maunganui, including Super 14 players Roy Kinikinilau (Chiefs) and Alando Soakai (Highlanders), with former All Black Ben Atiga arriving last night.
Kinikinilau made his name playing sevens and Soakai was part of the gold medal-winning team at last year's Commonwealth Games.
Tietjens was unsure what to expect from Atiga.
"I still maintain to do well in this game you need to be conditioned and Ben, talented footballer that he is, hasn't had much sevens."
Tietjens will pare his squad to 12 for the London (May 26-27) and Edinburgh (June 2-3) tournaments. New Zealand are third in the series on 90 points behind Fiji (104 points) and Samoa (94 points) after finishing fourth last year.
Tietjens concedes their hopes of reclaiming the silverware are hanging by a thread.
"Realistically we need to go away and win both of these last two tournaments to have a shot at the title," he said.