Sir John Kirwan slams New Zealand powerbrokers for ‘holding game to ransom’ amidst civil war threat

Colin Newboult
John Kirwan former All Blacks wing 2015 - Alamy.jpg

Former All Blacks wing Sir John Kirwan.

All Blacks legend Sir John Kirwan has called on the key powerbrokers to work together in order to fix New Zealand’s “broken system”.

A civil war threatens to break out after the New Zealand Rugby Players Association sent an explosive letter to the unions announcing their intention to break away from the governing body should their demands not be met.

Their disillusionment comes over a proposal to retain the “status quo” in New Zealand Rugby despite an independent review recommending sweeping alterations.

NZR was described as being ‘not fit for purpose’ in August last year, leading to calls for change, but some provincial unions came in with a counter-offer, which has left the players unhappy.


“Some of these chairmen, they’re just holding the game a wee bit to ransom. Some of these guys that are fighting, their unions lost $800,000 to a million dollars last year. It’s a broken system at the moment, we need to get back to what’s best for our game,” Kirwan told Newstalk ZB.

“You spent millions of dollars on a governance review, that governance review’s come out and now you’re trying to change it. So the problem is power.

“The interesting thing for the public is the NPC sides really at the end of the day have a vote, all of them, that can change the direction of the game.

“What we’re trying to do is speed that up, what the governance review said is we need to have a look at our game, we need to change it, we need a different structure.”

All Blacks players in revolt threat to New Zealand Rugby after extraordinary letter plunges game into crisis

Although Kirwan agrees with the NZRPA that change must happen, the 59-year-old believes that they are going about it the wrong way.

“That will happen again, there will be an absolute split. That’s why I don’t think threatening to leave is the right answer,” he said.

“I understand Rob’s [Nichol, chair of NZRPA] frustration because he has seen this governance review done and now they’re trying to change it, I understand that frustration.”

Public growing weary

Kirwan is worried that the power struggle is turning the New Zealand public off the sport as they grow tired of the constant arguing.

“The trouble is, with me, I don’t like threats of people leaving and that sort of stuff but our game continues to be split. The saddest thing for me is people don’t give a s*** any more because they’re just sick of it,” he added.

“Rather than having an opinion and being passionate about it, if you just stop caring, that’s when our game is in real danger.”

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