WELLINGTON (Reuters) – Samoa’s rugby sevens coach Gordon Tietjens says he will not seek to renew his contract when it expires in August due to the uncertainty hanging over the international circuit from the COVID-19 pandemic.

World Rugby suspended both the men’s and women’s global rugby sevens circuits in March as governments closed borders, imposed travel bans and restricted large gatherings to try to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The postponement of the Tokyo Olympics until 2021 was also a factor in the decision, Tietjens said in a Samoa Rugby Union statement on Tuesday.

“With so much uncertainty … the best solution moving forward would be to step down and allow Samoa Rugby to plan for the future,” Tietjens, a long time All Blacks sevens coach, said in the statement.

“With the cancellation of the Olympics and four tournaments more than likely to be cancelled from the 2019/2020 series the timing I felt was right to step down so they could look for a new head coach.”

The 64-year-old stepped down from the All Blacks sevens role after the side, one of the favourites for gold, finished fifth at the 2016 Rio Olympics. He started working with Samoa later that year.

Tietjens guided New Zealand to 12 World Series crowns, four Commonwealth Games gold medals and two World Cup titles during his 22-year tenure with the team, and was inducted into World Rugby’s Hall of Fame in 2012.

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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