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'It's actually cost a few players their All Black careers' - Highlanders coach Tony Brown takes aim at NZR policy

Highlanders’ assistant coach Tony Brown is the latest to express concerns over New Zealand Rugby’s controversial All Blacks rest protocols in Super Rugby, saying it has cost some players their All Blacks careers.

The convention, which has been in place since 2010, is New Zealand’s top players will play 40, 60 and then 80 minutes over the first three rounds of Super Rugby, although that could be managed differently – for example 60/60/60. They also get two weeks either to spend away from the team or to focus on their physical conditioning.

The so-called ‘load management’ policy has been panned by some critics who argue that the rule alienates fans and devalues the competition with the absence of its stars.

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Brown, who re-joined the Highlanders this season as assistant to head coach Aaron Mauger, goes one step further, saying that the one-size-fit-all nature of the policy also negatively affects some players’ careers.

“It’s always been the sort of Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Kieran Read plan, where they need to give those guys all a rest so to keep it all even they make it mandatory to rest every All Black,” Brown told Newstalk ZB‘s Martin Devlin.

“I think in the past it’s actually cost a few players their All Black careers.

“If you look at the Highlanders, guys like Malakai Fekitoa, Waisake Naholo, Elliot Dixon, those sort of guys who actually didn’t get a lot of time for the All Blacks, those guys getting rested as well which didn’t allow them to prepare for Super Rugby. And then their Super Rugby form actually cost them their All Blacks spot.”

Brown said he agrees with the policy in how it relates to top All Blacks but says it needs to be applied through a “case-by-case” basis.

“I think it’s the correct decision for the guys, eg Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and Kieran Read, but for the guys who actually need the training and the fitness and the game time, they’ve got to get out there and play and try and hold on to their All Black positions.

“Because there are so many good rugby players who did get quality pre-season time in, e.g. Sevu Reece. He came over the top of Waisake Naholo last year because of that. I think it’s got to be a case-by-case and we’ve got to have our top players preparing to play Super Rugby.”

Brown said some of his players want to train and play, but are restricted by the policy.

“They all want to play. They want to train. They just do whatever is best for the team. And if they’re in the All Blacks at the time and they say we’ve got to have a three-month rest, they’ll have a three-month rest.

“If you give them the choice they’ll come back to the Highlanders and they will want to train with everyone else because that’s what’s team sports is about.”

This article first appeared on the New Zealand Herald and is re-published with permission here.

Fans point fingers at Rugby Australia:

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'It's actually cost a few players their All Black careers' - Highlanders coach Tony Brown takes aim at NZR policy
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