As many as eight All Blacks are set to miss the opening rounds of the Super Rugby season as part of New Zealand’s player-management plan.
With the World Cup coming soon after a very long season in the southern hemisphere, the defending world champions are looking to keep some key players as fresh as possible.
New Zealand’s five Super Rugby teams are set to rest their All Blacks for at least two games each, with most of head coaches choosing to keep their international stars sidelined in the opening weeks, starting on February 13.
All the Kiwi franchises received visits from NZRU high performance manager Don Tricker, All Blacks strength and conditioning trainer Nick Gill and physiotherapist Peter Gallagher over the past week as they mapped out a player-management plan.
Reports suggest that the Blues, Crusaders and Chiefs will rest their All Blacks in the opening round.
However, the Hurricanes are set to travel to South Africa to face the Lions and Bulls with a full squad and will rest their All Blacks later in the year. The Highlanders start their season with a bye.
“That’s something we’ve committed to. At this stage it’s probably best to leave Keven (Mealamu) behind and get him ready for when we come home. Then he’ll be fresh and he can go for it.”
Keven Mealamu, Patrick Tuipulotu, Aaron Cruden, Brodie Retallick, Liam Messam, Kieran Read, Sam Whitelock and Israel Dagg are all set to miss the opening week, their respective coaches have confirmed.
Mealamu will be rested for the opening three weeks while Read and Whitelock won’t be available until round five
“We’re all on the same page,” Blues coach Sir John Kirwan told Stuff.
“We need to find the time to give them those two weeks off. That will be a challenge but our coaching staff will look at the season and particular games. It will put a huge emphasis on the whole squad.”