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Regular breaks for top ABs?

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'I think New Zealand Rugby have nailed it' - Extended breaks could become common practice for top All Blacks

Extended off-season breaks which eat into the start of Super Rugby campaigns could become a regular occurrence for top-line All Blacks.

Crusaders and All Blacks hooker Codie Taylor is one of three Crusaders All Blacks who are yet to feature in Super Rugby this year, alongside Sam Whitelock and Kieran Read.

Taylor will make his season debut against the Chiefs from off the bench at Christchurch Stadium tonight, while Whitelock expected to feature for the Crusaders until next week against the Highlanders in Dunedin, with Read’s anticipated return pushed back to their round seven clash against the Hurricanes in Wellington.

The trio were put on individual rest plans by New Zealand Rugby officials as they try to preserve their star All Blacks from burning out in this World Cup year after heavily contributing to both sides last season.

It’s a trend which could be set to stay, Taylor hinted to Stuff.

“What’s been done really well in New Zealand and the Crusaders, is they’ve taken us aside and given us all individual plans for the season,” he said.

“Looking into the future, they will probably do the same thing to get the best out of their players.

“I think New Zealand Rugby have nailed it. The balance between [NZR] and the franchises is pretty good, that there is pretty clear ideas of what they want from their players.”

Taylor’s enforced break comes after the 27-year-old ploughed through 17 matches – 15 of which he started – for the Christchurch-based franchise in their title-winning campaign in 2018, before going to start every test for the All Blacks except for matches against Japan and Italy.

It took his grand total of matches to 29 for the year, 27 of which he started.

Despite that, Taylor insisted that he didn’t need a break, and was eager to get back into training for 2019.

“Not at the time,” he said when asked if he felt like he needed a break from the sport.

“I was raring to go. I was loving my time out there. It wasn’t until I got home and spent time with the family that I realised it was exactly what I needed. I got a lot of time to do that and refresh and mentally get excited again for another big season.”

Although he was available to play in last week’s 22-12 win over the Reds in Brisbane, Taylor was left out of the match day squad as the Crusaders opted to take the first of his two mandatory All Blacks rest weeks.

“I’ve had almost three months’ off playing footy. Imagine how itchy my feet are,” he said.

“It’s hard to be selfish in those times. We play a team sport, you want to be out there with your brothers, whether it’s here or the All Blacks. What the boys have done over the summer here, they’ve been putting on a show the last couple of weeks.”

With 14 current All Blacks in his side, head coach Scott Robertson has a trickier job of managing the All Blacks’ rest weeks than most other New Zealand Super Rugby coaches.

Owen Franks, Matt Todd, Mitchell Drummond and George Bridge are all rested this week following three consecutive wins to start the season, with Robertson knowing he isn’t permitted to play any of his All Blacks in more than five straight games.

“There is a real art to it, and you make the best of it, and have skilful conversations,” Robertson said.

“What it does do is build your squad depth, players get opportunities from it.

“It’s great to have Codie back, and Sam will be back next week. There will be a bit more of a leadership in the group with the amount of games they’ve played for us and the experience they have.”

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'I think New Zealand Rugby have nailed it' - Extended breaks could become common practice for top All Blacks