All Blacks get bad News

Newscorp is set to derail Graham Henry’s master plan to win the World Cup.

The All Black coach had planned to withdraw his players from next year’s Vodacom Super 14 in order to give them sufficient rest before the global showpiece in France.

However, Newscorp, which has paid US$323 million to broadcast the Super 14 and Tri Nations for five years until 2010, insists the best players must play.

“It’s black and white,” said News Ltd corporate affairs director Greg Baxter. “Standing down All Blacks [for the Super 14] is a breach of contract. We were not even consulted and we are not happy about it.”

Speaking from Pretoria, NZRU chief executive Chris Moller defended the decision: “We’ve taken legal advice to make sure our situation is the correct one,” he told the Sunday Star-Times. “The obligation is to make sure the pre-eminent players are available. Through the All Blacks’ rotation policy we have been playing other players and we didn’t go to News in respect to that. We take the view it’s not a dissimilar exercise.”

Baxter disagreed. “I don’t think [Moller's] logic stacks up at all,” he said. “Obviously he has got his own advice and we don’t know all the detail of what that advice is. It is privileged to them and we don’t want to get into a legal fight with them. But if he thinks he’s under no obligation, he’s wrong. It’s that simple.”