All Black coach Henry wants players rested

The All Blacks’ coaches will meet with the five New Zealand Super 14 rugby coaches on Friday this week hoping to agree with the coaches a rest period in order to avoid player burn out in the current crippling schedule.

Players are feeling the pressure of a the modern professional game which has an ever increasing number of matches so that rugby bosses can generate further funds from broadcasters.

In 2011 the Super Rugby will expand to a Super 15 and this will cause a significant increase in the number of matches that players play given their international commitments and provincial commitments.

The All Blacks went through their end of year tour unbeaten until the final straw on Saturday when coach Henry chose a largely second string team which led to the All Blacks’18-25 defeat to the Barbarians which exposed a lack of depth beyond the first choice players.

Henry is concerned about player welfare and his assistants, Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith, will meet in Wellington on Friday with the Super 14 coaches for a debrief of the tour, and discuss the physical state of some players.

“Can we keep them to a high level with the amount of rugby they’re playing or do they need a bit of space from time to time? We’re just trying to agree on how we do that,” Henry told NZPA.

“They’re not going to be a month out of the game, but a guy might play for three weeks then just needs a break for a week, so he gets out of the environment and gets away.

“Otherwise they’re going to be playing rugby for 10 months of the year for the next two years and they’ll be buggered… they’re buggered now.”

Most of the All Blacks who played on the tour will be given leave until late January but veteran fullback Mils Muliaina has been given permission to miss the Chiefs’ first three matches.

All Black captain and IRB player of the year Richie McCaw will also be given an extended break.

Henry said the plan wasn’t solely geared to the Rugby World Cup in 2011, but just to help the players prolong their careers at the top level. “You see the difference between last year and this year.

“Last year we had an extended period of time before they started playing Super 14 so they were in good shape and that reflected in the way they played.

“This year we came off a grand slam tour, basically straight into Super 14 and they’ve played rugby right through.

“The same is going to occur, back in their franchises in January, playing in early February, so it builds all the time.

“Unless we look after them as athletes and do what’s best for them then they’re going to struggle.”

Henry added that the All Blacks were exhausted after seven weeks on the road which included a pre-tour camp in Auckland and stops in Tokyo, Cardiff, Milan, London, Marseille and back to London.

In 2009 the All Blacks played 14 tests and the Barbarians match and have a similar schedule planned for 2010 if the New Zealand Rugby Union accept offers from Hong Kong or Japan.

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