Thursday, March 29, 2007

All Blacks opt to divide and conquer

April 17, 2006

Via New Zealand Herald

Henry sends out advance guards to beat burn-out

By Wynne Gray

The All Blacks will send advance squads to Argentina and South Africa this year while their teammates play domestic tests.

In a fascinating response to concerns about player welfare, an All Black test XV will watch from Buenos Aires while their colleagues play the second test against Ireland at Eden Park.

Coach Graham Henry revealed the innovations yesterday in response to worries about players' workloads and the increasingly taxing test match schedule.

The selectors will pick 39 players for the opening tests against Ireland and Argentina on successive weekends in Hamilton, Auckland and Buenos Aires.

For the two internationals against Ireland, 24 players will be available while the other 15 will be involved in conditioning work for the test against the Pumas.

They will travel to Buenos Aires on Thursday, June 15, while 11 players involved in the Saturday, June 17, test against Ireland will travel to Argentina the next day.

"We are trying to look after the players and are also working hard to get depth across the board," Henry said. "We are trying to get the balance right."

The idea of split-selections was to give the test squad time to recover from the flight and adjust to local time zones.

A similar strategy, on a smaller scale, would be used with the 30 players allowed for squads during the Tri-Nations.

A small group would travel early to South Africa to acclimatise for the initial August 27 test in Pretoria while the rest would remain for the August 19 Bledisloe Cup test at Eden Park.

Henry also revealed plans to spell those who had been involved in the Super 14 play-offs from the two tests against Ireland.

"We will do that if we can. It is not black and white but that is our intention.

"We want to give those involved in the finals a short conditioning break but we will have to wait to see how it pans out. We want to pick for the Irish series those who have not played in the Super 14 finals."

He declined to say whether that would mean different captains for the Irish and Argentine internationals.

Thirty players would be used in the Tri-Nations and 30 would be taken on the end of year tour to simulate the schedule at next year's World Cup.

Henry said he was acutely aware of the need to condition players.

"In the old days they played rugby in the winter and had the summer off but there is no time to condition now.

"Guys are playing so much rugby and it is a wear and tear thing that, over time, players are just going to break down."

He cited the case of Highlanders lock James Ryan, a 22-year-old who needed reconstructive shoulder surgery. Young tight forwards found it difficult to cope with back-to-back campaigns.

"If we ask young forwards like Ryan and Jason Eaton to play consecutive campaigns you are just waiting for something to happen."

Some form of rotation had to be the answer.

"We have to look after our players and the first stage of that will be trying to rest those from the Irish tests who are involved in the Super 14 play-offs."

Test schedule
* June 10 v Ireland, Waikato Stadium
* June 17 v Ireland, Eden Park
* June 24 v Argentina, Buenos Aires
* July 8 v Australia, Jade Stadium
* July 22 v South Africa, Westpac Stadium
* July 29 v Australia, Brisbane
* August 19 v Australia, Eden Park
* August 27 v South Africa, Pretoria
* September 3 v South Africa, Rustenburg

Source: NZ Herald


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