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DJ calling the tune for NZ Sevens

16 May 2011

  • New Zealand Sevens legend DJ Forbes chats to RFU.com ahead of London Sevens
  • Captain chats about shaving, their hard-grafting coach and the Olympics

With the Emirates Airline London Sevens just five days away, HSBC Sevens World Series leaders New Zealand are in pole position to retain their overall title, despite having Ben Ryan’s England pushing them all the way in second place.

All Blacks captain and indomitable forward DJ Forbes answers seven burning questions about his shaving habits, hard-man coach Gordon Tietjens and his thoughts on competing for Olympic Gold.

New Zealand Sevens captain DJ Forbes in typically abrasive style against South Africa at the Adelaide Sevens

Photo: Getty Images

You grow a beard and then shave it off after the first day of each tournament. What’s that about?

It started when we won seven tourneys in a row [in 2008] and the boys had the beards going. It was also the same time when the Spartans movie came out, The 300. Then when that team moved on to greener pastures me and Lote Raikabula looked at it as a business trip, we don't get to wear a suit and tie when we go to work but we try to look clean cut as we can on for business day which is Day Two. It's part of a team culture and maybe a bit of a way to lift morale.

What’s the best thing about being a sevens player?

It’s the travel, going around the world. Some of the venues we play in are amazing and you may never get that opportunity again. All the teams spend lots of time together – we're in the same dining room, on the same training fields, and that adds to the whole hype of the game. In 15s you’re in your own team and you don't really get to see the opposition other than when you meet them on the field. It makes it competitive and quite exciting.

Who’s your rugby inspiration?

New Zealand Sevens Head Coach Gordon Tietjens looks on during a training session

Photo: Getty Images

Growing up Michael Jones was the person I tried to base how I played on. He's an awesome player, but off the field he's quite a religious man. I go to church and try to do my bit to promote God's name through my rugby. I see what he does in the community and in my way I try to do the same.

How tough is your legendary coach Gordon Tietjens?

By far the hardest coach I've played under. He's pretty old school and some things never change. He's stuck to what he believes in which is hard work and determination and results speak for themselves. All the stories are true. At the end of your career you'll be thankful for what he's done. I never thought I'd be able to train as hard. I come home now and I feel guilty about eating bad food and if my wife gives me an ice-cream I'm thinking twice about it, things like that. You moan about it in camp but at the end of the day you appreciate it because I wouldn't be where I am if I wasn't as disciplined as he's made me.

Tell us something we don’t know about you

I'm a part-time DJ. I like my music and I do a few gigs DJing for weddings and birthdays. I'm usually playing a lot of easy-listening Island songs. I cater for every crowd. People probably wouldn't know that I was part of a dance group a few years ago. I did some traditional and and contemporary stuff based around the Samoan dancing.

When was the last time someone called you Derek rather than DJ?

New Zealand Sevens captain DJ Forbes hold aloft the Adelaide Sevens trophy, yet another title on the HSBC Sevens World Series

Photo: Getty Images

Probably maybe when I was five or six was the last time at school! I didn't answer to it and everyone gave up. My brother called me by my initials and that kind of stuck. I got used to that. It'd be pretty odd to hear 'that's Derek Forbes running down the wing' on the IRB commentary. Maybe the odd player on the circuit has called me Derek as a bit of a sledge but apart from that I can't remember the last time.

You’re 28 now. Can you keep going until sevens makes its Olympic debut in 2016?

When the first announcements came out I thought ‘that's a long way off’. Maybe if I dropped a code and didn't play in the ITM Cup then who knows? Eric Rush and a few of the Fijian boys have played well into their 30s. I'll be 33-34 then. I've still got a lot of rugby left in me but I don't know if I'd last out with the thrashings that Titch gives us! If it did come up as an opportunity, who would give up the chance to try for a gold medal?

Join the beach party on May 21 and 22 at Twickenham Stadium in the Emirates Airline London Sevens, the penultimate leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series. Tickets are available from £15 via RFU.com.