All Blacks to miss Super 14

The New Zealand Rugby Union could become the first of the Tri-Nations partners to curtail Super 14 participation of a large number of their top players next year.

A proposal by national coach Graham Henry, that up to 30 All Blacks be wrapped in cotton wool next season to prepare for the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France, has become an intense discussion point, Beeld’s Morris Gilbert wrote on Monday.

Henry apparently is suggesting that the top players are withdrawn from the Super 14 for at least six weeks. It is virtually certain he has the last few weeks at the start of the business end of the series in mind.

Henry’s radical proposal published in the Sunday Star Times has caught the Kiwi rugby bosses on the wrong foot.

The union’s CEO, Chris Moller, was vague in his response about the possible opposition Henry’s proposal could expect. Moller has confirmed that talks are to take place with the five Super franchises on Wednesday and the union’s 2007 Rugby World Cup planning committee will discuss it the same evening.

The union’s board of directors will discuss Henry’s proposal on Thursday. Moller could not give any indication when a final decision would be taken, saying only: “Perhaps on Thursday, perhaps in a week’s time or maybe a month.”

The All Blacks coach mooted the proposal last year and the matter was discussed with all the role players in New Zealand rugby at Easter.

This included the country’s five Super franchises – the Blues, the Chiefs, the Crusaders, the Highlanders and the Hurricanes, who are not too happy with the proposal.