Despite some push back after last year’s directive that took All Blacks out for both mandatory rest and camps during the season, it seems franchises have embraced the change this year in preparation for the World Cup.
Blues assistant coach Tom Coventry and Chiefs assistant coach Tabai Matson both confirmed to Fairfax that they were in Steve Hansen’s corner.
“New Zealand rugby is all around making the All Blacks strong, and Super Rugby is about developing players to be good for the All Blacks for the World Cup,” Coventry told Fairfax. “We want them to be good for us as well, so there is a balancing act.
“We work closely with the coaching panel and trainers from the All Blacks who are in our ear all the time and making sure the boys are working in the right direction. They want them fit in September and we want them hissing in March. That’s our dilemma.”
Matson shared Coventry’s view on the matter.
“Initially you might think it’s really annoying but we want all our players playing well at the end of the season when it matters, and we want our players winning the World Cup for New Zealand,” Matson told Fairfax. “We all understand it’s a key part of New Zealand rugby and you find solutions.
“We all want to win in Japan [at the World Cup], and the Chiefs want to win on July 6. We’re happy to find a common ground.”
Coventry admitted it would be challenging for sides to play their All Blacks in week one after their omission from preseason action, while Matson is looking forward to seeing how teams handle that challenge.
“If the rest of the squad is seven weeks ahead, they’ve got to try catch up that time and there’s only one way to be hardened for rugby,” Coventry said. “They’ll do it. They’ve come back off fitness regimes, they’ve just had a camp last week, and they’re all pretty motivated to give us a hand.”
“Some All Blacks will have different minutes and a graduated process back into fulltime, so they don’t play 80 minutes from day one.”
“It’s a steep curve to play 80 after no pre-season, and injury risk is high. We need a plan on how we graduate them back in.
“The All Blacks who had big loads last year will all be well looked after.”
“It’s going to be fascinating seeing each franchise’s strategy,” Matson added. “Some will throw them straight in and know they can go from zero to 100 in game one, and others will wean them in. It will probably be case by case.”
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