December 8, 2023

Robertson to be consulted on future of All Blacks Super Rugby rest orders

Scott Robertson.

Incoming All Blacks coach Scott Robertson will have an important say on whether New Zealand sides continue to make use of player rest orders in Super Rugby Pacific from next year.

As a means of keeping the All Blacks fresh for the upcoming international season, All Blacks are permitted to play no more than five regular season matches in succession.

Once the limit is reached, a given player has to sit out of an entire week with their side, unable to attend training aside from being unavailable for a match.

While the focus on player welfare is a key reason behind the rest orders, a counterargument comes in the shape of Super Rugby itself being devalued – with fans unable to be guaranteed seeing the best players face off each week.

Sir Steve Hansen made use of All Blacks rest being imposed in Super Rugby before the 2019 Rugby World Cup, while successor Ian Foster has done the same since he took the role in 2020.

But, as Robertson prepares to assume the role from next year, time will tell as to whether or not he does the same.

Speaking on Tuesday, New Zealand Rugby’s general manager of professional rugby and performance Chris Lendrum said that while there is no confirmation either way on whether the policy will be in place next year, Robertson’s input will be key. 

“In terms of going forward… the short answer is I don’t know,” said Lendrum. “We’ve got a new All Blacks coach, who will be in place after the World Cup, who’ll have views on this we’ll need to take account of.

“We’ll have a bunch of new Super Rugby coaches as well. The key will be to sit down and have a really good conversation amongst those people, and say are there ways in which we could improve it?

“There has to be some give somewhere. We’re actually really proud of the fact that holistically we’re world leaders in how we’ve managed our players and their loading.

“[There are] conversations to come. I don’t expect it to go away, hopefully people recognise when you’ve got players playing a contact sport like rugby week in, week out, that there needs to be some gaps at times.”

Already, the Crusaders coach has outlined he isn’t afraid to challenge New Zealand Rugby’s long-standing traditions, and said he is open to selecting All Blacks playing for overseas clubs.

From New Zealand Rugby’s point of view, though, the rest orders are beneficial for the All Blacks. 

Rather than looking at it solely as a negative, Lendrum points out squad management can be a benefit to clubs at Super Rugby level, with the table-topping Chiefs getting the most out of their entire squad on their way to this weekend’s final.

“I think it’s nowhere near as impactful on the competition as it used to be,” said Lendrum.

“I think the way the management protocols are set up are slightly different and less invasive [than] if I look back five or six years ago.

“The reality is there’s no players in the competition who can play every game – whether they’re All Blacks or non-All Blacks.

“It’s up to clubs to manage their players through the competition. If you look at the Chiefs, top qualifiers, look at the way they did that, there’s a link there.”

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