The All Blacks perform the haka before their test against Italy at the Olympic stadium in Rome last month. REUTERS/Max Rossi
The All Blacks' poor performances in the two "add-on" tests
this year against Australia and England and a stronger
financial position have prompted the New Zealand Rugby Union
to consider playing fewer tests in 2013.
The third Bledisloe Cup match against Australia in Brisbane,
which finished in a 18-18 draw, and the final test of the
year against England at Twickenham, a humiliating 38-21
defeat for the All Blacks, were not originally on the
calendar but were added as money spinners.
NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said now the lucrative deal
with jersey sponsor AIG had been locked in until 2017, the
organisation would base their decisions on what was best for
the players heading into the 2015 World Cup.
Next year the All Blacks host France for three tests during
the Super Rugby break. Then it's into the Rugby Championship
against the Springboks, Wallabies and Pumas as usual.
There will again be an extra Bledisloe Cup test but the All
Blacks are slated to play only Ireland, France and England on
the Northern Hemisphere tour. There is a possibility an extra
test against Wales or an international against the Barbarians
could be added, with Tew saying talks with northern unions
still had to take place.
Regardless, it appears the feedback from players and coach
Steve Hansen about the tough nature of the latest tour in
November and December has hit its mark and that extra test at
the end of the year is looking less likely.
This year the All Blacks demolished Scotland, accounted for
Italy, were excellent against Wales until the latter stages
and hardly fired a shot against England.
Tew said he was aware of the demands placed on the All
Blacks, especially those who have families, and that they are
also integral to the success of their Super Rugby teams.
"The thing about the extra game, as an example, is that we're
now able to sit back and say 'what's the best rugby outcome
from the discussions for an extra game?'," Tew said.
"Would the All Black coaches and players see an extra game as
beneficial for 2015 or is getting back and having another
week off and getting back into Super Rugby earlier the better
option? That's the discussion we're able to have rather than
when we set up for 2012 three years ago when we desperately
needed to play this extra game, and in fact the third
Bledisloe is also a revenue earner.
''This year we put two extra matches into the schedule which
earned us a considerable amount of money. The majority of
guys who toured went and did another three or four days of
commercial work and didn't get back until the weekend," he
"So it is a very demanding end of a tough year for our guys
and we're keen to manage it. But we also don't want to take a
knee-jerk reaction to a performance against England that
didn't match up to what we'd expect.
"Now that we've locked in a considerable proportion of our
commercial revenue we can make our decisions based on what's
best for the team rather than necessarily having to take the
money thing into account."
Tew said Hansen would have an input into next year's
"I've been talking to Steve on a regular basis and it's fair
to say he's waxed and waned a little bit. There is an
argument that having an additional game better mirrors what
2015 is going to be like."
Tew said he wasn't aware of any other All Blacks starting
next year late. Keven Mealamu will relinquish the Blues
captaincy to take an extended break, while Richie McCaw is
taking a sabbatical and will miss the France tests and first
part of the Crusaders season at least.
Tew said other players, such as Hurricanes skipper Conrad
Smith, could take a sabbatical in order to stay fresh for the
2015 World Cup in England and Wales.
- Patrick McKendry of APNZ