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The All Blacks resting policy may actually work

(Photo by Ross Land/Getty Images)

Instinctively, I’m against the resting of All Blacks.


I want to see the best against the best as often as possible, rather than when the national coaching and training staffs allow, or the players deign to appear.

But what if it works?

The Six Nations is almost upon us and, as that competition wears on and Super Rugby splutters into life, I know which is going to appeal to me more.

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But how many Rugby World Cups have they won in the Northern Hemisphere? How are the insatiable appetites of club owners helping the nations in which they reside?

I truly want to say that wrapping athletes in cotton wool is anathema to success. That you only prepare to play by playing, that no amount of rest or training ever produced a winner.

Sport’s achievers are those who prove themselves in the furnace of competition, not those who push out PBs in the gym but shy away from actually competing on the paddock.

But I come back to this idea that what if managing workloads actually does win New Zealand the next Rugby World Cup?


No-one’s going to forget 2007 in a hurry. We put faith in the plan of All Blacks coaches Graham Henry, Wayne Smith and Steve Hansen, that excusing players from matches and rotating the team holus-bolus would work.

History shows that world cup campaign was a spectacular failure, with those coaches exceedingly lucky to retain their jobs.

I’m still not convinced that method is any more valid now.

But look at the alternatives. It’s so long since anyone other than New Zealand and South Africa has won a Rugby World Cup it’s not funny.

Here’s an event that’s been going since 1987 and England are the only Northern Hemisphere team – in 2003 – to emerge victorious.


When you look at it that way, how bad can our way of doing it actually be?

If the All Blacks don’t win this year’s world cup, it won’t be because we restricted players’ minutes in the months before the tournament. It’ll be because the team, as currently coached and constructed, isn’t that good.

Now, of course, there’s a separate argument to be made about Super Rugby and how we’ve butchered that and why it might never be a worthwhile competition again. Even if we can’t fix it, we do at least need to find a way to make it relevant.

The model we have now isn’t fit for purpose and never will be while we allow the All Blacks’ participation to be optional.

It’s funny how, increasingly, the money in professional teams’ sport is reserved for clubs and franchises, but how in rugby we seek to doggedly maintain the primacy of the international game.

Now give me test cricket over the Indian Premier League every day of the week. It’s just that the market says my opinion is wrong and, as Twenty20 competitions continue to proliferate, the days of watching our beloved Black Caps might be numbered – especially in the five-day format.

Rugby will surely go the same way eventually but, for now, we have New Zealand Rugby control and that means All Blacks only playing franchise and test football for the purpose of preparing for Rugby World Cups. No matter where we are in the cycle, it’s only that tournament that counts.

It’s a strange way of thinking and something you assume will be abandoned eventually but, for now, it’s what we have and it actually serves us better than the methods employed by our rivals.

I don’t like players not playing, but show me a model that has consistently worked better for Rugby World Cups.


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Ruby 498 days ago

Resting older or established players makes sense, resting players who haven't locked up a starting position isn't beneficial. The binary approach is the issue, by all means rest Aaron Smith but don't rest Fakatava.

Poe 499 days ago

I think this is backwards thinking. I personally back more than 23 players to put in a worthy shift in an AB jersey. Expecting the same team to play every game is unnecessary. It obviously takes a toll. Other option is to take a risk and promote talent, give them a shot, coach them. Name a position where NZ rugby doesn't have a single player to step in against say Wales?, No disrespect intended.

Bruce 501 days ago

Hamish I think in Rugby the international game is king and will always be the case. However I think in NZ we don't have the balance right. As you say the total focus has been on the All Blacks and not enough attention has been put on Super Rugby and how to enhance that. They have seen it as a high performance tool to service the AB's and have not valued it as a competition in it's own right.
However I think the current board have a different view and moving in the right direction. Having created an independent board to look solely after the competition is definitely a step in the right direction. I see the growing of the Super comp as the number one priority for NZ and Aus.

JD Kiwi 501 days ago

Thanks for the fair and balanced article Hamish.

Sports like soccer, league and Aussie rules have always been much more about club than internationals.

Rugby is different, it's about national pride. Remember all those wallabies jerseys when Pat Cash won Wimbledon?

Looking at France and England where they have the big leagues, test rugby has the much bigger TV audiences (even compared to finals) and makes all the profits. Much more so of course everywhere else.

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