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Chiefs boss Warren Gatland joins the call for change to All Black rules

By NZ Herald

Warren Gatland has joined the calls to scrap blanket rules governing the work load for All Blacks.

Gatland, whose Chiefs have made a brilliant start to the season, says Super Rugby coaches should be trusted to make the decision when players play and train.

All Blacks face set Super Rugby playing and training restrictions and New Zealand Rugby boss Mark Robinson says the NZR is open to reviewing the rules for next year.

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Gatland said his own decision to rest former test pivot Aaron Cruden – who is not part of the All Black protocols – for this week’s match against the Sunwolves in Japan is an example of coaches acting responsibly.

The Chiefs will also leave out All Black mainstays Sam Cane and Anton Lienert-Brown.

Highlanders assistant coach Tony Brown – like Gatland a former All Black – made a similar call last week, saying the hard and fast rules had cost players like Malakai Fekitoa, Waisake Naholo and Elliot Dixon their All Black careers.

Gatland told Radio Sport’s Jim Kayes: “They want those All Blacks, it’s a long season for them, they want to keep them in New Zealand as long as they possibly can, I understand they want to be well managed.

“I have been on both sides (as a test and club coach). Part of my role in Super Rugby is supporting the All Blacks as much as I can. I want as many of my players to make the All Blacks.

“I think there’s a bit of a balance and probably at the top trusting the Super Rugby teams and coaches that we can manage our players well. We can look after them, and give them time off and rest.

“I’d like to see us work together – the people in charge need to trust us. If we don’t do a good job then don’t let us manage them.

“It’s not just the number of game, everyone loves playing the games, that’s the easy part.

“If we can get to that stage where there is cooperation in terms of that trust then I think that is the way forward. There’s a blanket policy for everybody but a lot of those players are in different situations.”

Gatland cited examples in his current squad including that of Brad Weber, who got very little game time for the All Blacks last year, and Damian McKenzie, who is coming back from injury.

Veteran players also required different treatment.

“Everyone is in a different boat – some might need more than two games off,” he said.

Highlanders assistant coach Tony Brown said the rules have been correct for the likes of test greats Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and Kieran Read but wrong for others.

“In the past it’s cost a few players their All Black careers – if you look at the Highlanders Malakai Fekitoa, Waisake Naholo, Elliot Dixon, those sort of guys who didn’t get a lot of time for the All Blacks.

“Those guys getting rested as well didn’t allow them to prepare for Super Rugby, and their Super Rugby form cost them their All Black spot.

“There are so many good rugby players who get quality pre-season time. Sevu Reece came over the top of Waisake Naholo last year because of that.

“It’s got to be a case by case…we’ve got to have our top players preparing to play Super Rugby.”

Meanwhile Gatland said the Chiefs had experienced “a bit of luck” in the opening wins over the Blues and Crusaders, but he was delighted with his squad and their never say die attitude.

“We had to dig deep again as we did last week. They’re not throwing in the towel, not giving up,” he said after beating the champions in Hamilton.

This article first appeared on nzherald.co.nz and was republished with permission.

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Chiefs boss Warren Gatland joins the call for change to All Black rules
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