New Zealand Rugby
Henry upbeat on Super Rugby talks
September 20, 2010
New Zealand head coach Graham Henry © Getty Images
All Blacks head coach Graham Henry is confident that there will be no falling out with New Zealand's five Super Rugby franchises over the contentious issue of player management ahead of next year's World Cup.
At the midway point of his two-day summit with key figures from the Blues, the Chiefs, the Crusaders, the Highlanders and the Hurricanes in Wellington, Henry was upbeat on his hopes of coming to an amicable agreement over just how often his top men will be called upon in next year's Super Rugby series.
"We're marrying our ideas so we come back with one team approach really - an All Blacks and franchise team approach so we both benefit as best we can," the former British & Irish Lions boss said.
"I don't think the All Blacks coaching team will be too demanding and I'm sure that the franchises will be happy with what we say. That's my gut feeling, maybe I'm wrong."
It would not appear so, as Crusaders boss Todd Blackadder sang from the same hymn sheet when he was subsequently quizzed by the media on how the talks were progressing.
"The Super Rugby coaches are very much behind the All Blacks and we want them all to be successful," he said. "We've got our own competition that we'd like to win but ultimately we want the same thing. We've had a really strong relationship with Graham and the All Blacks through the last couple of years.
"We want the All Blacks to win the World Cup..... these two days are to make sure we're aligned and everyone's really happy."
And Henry insisted that he will not be directly ordering players to skip the opening rounds of the 2010 Super Rugby series in order to preserve their energy levels for later in the year.
"It's nothing to do with me," Henry told NZPA. "It's a personal thing and if they think that's the right thing, they discuss it with the franchise coach and go from there. I wouldn't suggest to any player that they take time off."
Ten current All Blacks will not be used at all in the ITM Cup ahead of the upcoming tour of the northern hemisphere, a decision which has raised a few eyebrows. However, Henry believes the decision was sound and insists that he has not copped any flak from the provinces over it.
"We just thought we'd make sensible decisions about players who have played a huge amount of rugby during the Super competition and now the All Blacks' season," Henry said. "Most of them are starting players for the All Blacks team."
Canterbury's Sam Whitelock is one of those who has been ordered to rest up even though he has been only used sparingly by his province this season. However, Henry countered: "He's been involved in the 22 virtually every game through the Super 14 and the All Blacks' season. We think he's a young guy who needs a wee bit of space, just to get back that mental edge again and get himself right physically. So he's an exception.
"He's played a huge amount of rugby for a 21-year-old playing lock forward. It's very unusual for a guy to do what he's done. We're just trying to consider the player's age and the amount of rugby he's going to play over the next 12 months."
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