All Blacks to be wrapped in cotton wool

As if missing half of the Super 14 tournament was not enough, the bulk of the New Zealand World Cup squad will be kept well away from Air New Zealand Cup as well.

New Zealand assistant coach Wayne Smith has said that pre-tournament training camps will be more than enough to keep the majority of the squad fit in the seven-week gap between the end of the Tri-Nations and the start of the Rugby World Cup in September.

There was the option for some of the players to turn out in New Zealand’s domestic competition, but the All Blacks management have instead opted for internal matches at a series of training camps to maintain players fitness levels.

“We’ve road-tested this the last few years,” Smith said.

“We’ve gone from Tri-Nations to end-of-year tours, sometimes in the space of six or seven weeks, and played bloody well in those first couple of games because in our camp we’ve managed to have activities that are match-like in hardness.

“We seem to have got the mix right, that they’ve always hit the tour really fizzing.”

The Air New Zealand Cup, which kicks of four days after New Zealand announce their final 30-man RWC party, will see five rounds played before the squad leaves for France, with the final set for October 20, the same day as the 2007 Rugby World Cup Final.

The management are not entirely ruling out player involvement in the tournament, as there will be a select group of players low on game time. However, Smith said no firm decision would be made on who, if anyone, will play until after the Tri-Nations.

“We’ve just got to get through the next two weeks and then make some decisions on whether guys need rugby or not,” said Smith.

The preferred method of internal games has been part of the long-term All Black plan, although it will require extra players being drafted into the camps to make the logistics of such games possible.

“We don’t just get to this stage of the year and say ‘what are we going to do’?” Smith said.

“There’s an element of peaking physically as well, and getting into a speed and power phase.

“I think we’ve got an advantage over the northern hemisphere teams in that we can go to the Cup match-hardened.

“We’re not going to blow that by keeping them inactive.”


365 Digital

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