By Roger Childs 

Rugby administrators in New Zealand have a bad name. Words such as incompetent, inefficient and dithering come to mind. The CEO Mark Robinson has come in for a lot of flak notably for the selection of Ian Foster as head All Black coach back in 2019. This choice seemed to be based on the fact that he had been assistant-coach to the previous top man Steve Hansen rather than his own record as a coach. 

The appointment of former Governor General, Patsy Reddy, as Chairperson of the Rugby Union Board late last year has made some difference. She can take credit for the selection of Scott Robertson to replace Foster as All Black coach after the World Cup. 

Two outdated polices that need to change are: 

∙       the ineligibility for the All Blacks of New Zealanders playing overseas. 

∙       the requirement that current All Blacks stand down for at least one matches in the Super Rugby competition. 

Selecting the best 

Rugby fans find it incomprehensible that top New Zealanders currently playing for teams in Japan, Europe and the British Isles cannot be picked in the country’s squad for this year’s World Cup. Sports such as rugby league, football and cricket have no such restriction. Most of the current Black Caps play in the lucrative Indian Cricket League where they get excellent experience against the world’s best. They retain their eligibility for the national team. 

It has been suggested by journalist Mark Reason, that crafty overseas coaches such as the Wallabies’ Eddie Jones, might poach leading overseas Kiwi talent for this year’s World Cup.  One example is Australian-born half-back Tawera Kerr-Barlow who is currently playing excellent rugby for La Rochelle in France.

Sitting out Super Rugby matches 

This is another ridiculous policy. Theoretically it is argued that resting All Blacks will make them fresher for the World Cup. But in reality the players would much rather keep playing for their Super Rugby teams and accept that rotating and resting players be left to the wisdom of the franchise coaches. 

The Crusaders were badly caught out early in the season when playing the Fiji Drua on their home turf. They resting some key All Blacks and consequently the Drua roared through to beat last year’s Super champions. 

Last weekend The Brumbles in Australia rested a number of players and consequently got hammered by the Western Force in Perth. Back in New Zealand the Hurricanes rested their three All Blacks – Jordie Barrett, Ardie Savea and Tyrol Lomax – and were no match for the Chiefs in Hamilton.

Coaches of the Super teams are astute enough to juggle their selections and maybe give their stars a break against weak teams when it suits. 

Add another team? 

In recent years there had been a significant gap in the quality of rugby in Australia compared with New Zealand. This is still the case in 2023. Currently only the Brumbies from across the Tasman are in the top five on the Super Rugby table. There has been much talk in the past that the Aussies should have one less team, but this has not gone down well in sports-mad Australia. 

The answer could be to add another New Zealand franchise, possibly called Central, taking in the areas of Taranaki, Taupo and Hawke’s Bay.