Ian Foster reveals Super Rugby plan for All Blacks

Publish Date
Sunday, 5 February 2023, 9:06AM

All Blacks coach Ian Foster has clarified how many Super Rugby Pacific games All Blacks players will be available for this season, and claims their load management systems have not been created with the Rugby World Cup in mind.

Rest and rotation has been an occasionally controversial subject for the All Blacks, with criticisms the Super Rugby product gets watered down when the top stars aren’t playing regularly, especially in World Cup years.

This season, senior All Blacks will only be allowed to play five consecutive games before they need to take a week off. While those stipulations were in place last season, in a World Cup year it has been extended to include the quarter-finals and semifinal weeks.

However, Foster clarified that exceptions would be made for All Blacks who had lower playing minutes last year, younger players, or those returning from long-term injuries.

This has been discussed with the teams, and there would be some six-game exceptions.

Foster says this year’s plan is a natural evolution of systems applied in the past.

“It’s an individualised approach where we look at our players separately,” he said.

“The overwhelming theme is to have them available for the vast majority of Super Rugby Pacific because that competition is vital for us, but also that we make sure that we do what we can to have a responsible management plan.”

Under previous protocols, two byes and two games away from the team environments were applied. Strategies were always worked out with the Super sides.

“It’s been complicated by Super Rugby only having one bye this year, which effectively means you take out a natural break for players,” Foster explains.

“We want them to get the mix right between playing really well for their club and really well for their country. We think it is a sensible approach that shows a lot of trust in the clubs to come up with a plan around a certain criteria.”

Foster said there was enough experience through the years to show that if players continue to play increasingly more physical games, then fatigue could lead to injuries or potentially a loss of form.

“There’s a certain degree of common sense about that and a lot of experience over time. And it’s getting the balance with the individual side of it.”

Some positions had natural times for substitutions, such as front rowers, hookers and halfbacks.

“Some positions get managed more easily than others; others are harder to cover off the reserves bench. So, a lot of players will be playing 80 minutes regularly. It’s looking at those players individually, and positionally, and saying ‘OK, what is the best strategy for them?’”

Blues coach Leon MacDonald noted rotating All Blacks is a tricky task to get right, and requires the ability to be flexible.

“I looked at the planning sheet we started last year with and where we finished and it was completely different,” MacDonald said.

“That’s going to be our big challenge, even more so this year.

“It’s going to be stringent, making sure guys aren’t playing more than five games. We’ve got a reasonably good chunk of All Blacks now. You look at every game and think there’s none you want to rest them, so it’s about trusting your squad. We did it well last year and we’ve got to do it again.”

This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission

Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you