All Blacks to strike to force schedule change?
May 13, 2013
Could the likes of All Blacks playmaker Dan Carter go on strike to force through a global season? © Getty Images
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has urged his players to force the hand of administrators and demand a global season while New Zealand Rugby Players' Association boss Rob Nichol has suggested that strike action is a possibility.
Hansen is wary of the increasing demands on his players and believes radical change to the schedule is the only way to safeguard the future of New Zealand rugby. He believes players should press for an integrated season that it is hopes would feature less games and offer longer rest periods.
But any moves towards a global season would require significant change and no doubt meet stern opposition with the Six Nations currently occupying its traditional and highly successful February/March slot while the Rugby Championship is played between August to October.
The international calendar also incorporates to inter-hemisphere Test windows in June and November that fall in the middle of the Super Rugby and European club seasons respectively.
"Player power on the international stage [is the best way to instigate change]," Hansen told the Herald on Sunday. "When we look back to the last big change in rugby - when the game went professional - it was the players who drove it. It was the result of them getting together and applying pressure.
"At the moment - when it comes to the global season - too many decisions are made around tradition rather than what is right for the athletes."
The International Rugby Players' Association, the umbrella body representing the interests of professionals in Argentina, Australia, England, France, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and Wales, will meet during the British & Irish Lions' tour next month where the matter will be discussed with the issue set to be raised with the International Rugby Board in July.
New Zealand players reportedly want their season to start later than its current February kick-off and are targeting a 16-week off-season instead of the current eight-week break. Nichol is confident a solution would be found before any strike action was necessary but has not ruled it out.
"We won't allow the game's administrators to follow amateur traditions that are no longer applicable," said Nichol. "That's not only competition structure but also commercial. We have to address it."
He added: "We don't think it's good having the June tests in the middle of the Super Rugby competition, that's not ideal."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The All Blacks' form is not a peaking issue, but Hansen must threaten to wield his axe, to demand improvement, Craig Dowd writes
"It has been the World Cup that smashed down the gender barriers of the sport." Tom Hamilton looks back at a remarkable tournament
A selection of the best pictures from England's historic World Cup triumph in Paris as they beat Canada 21-9
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the Women's World Cup, the opening round of the Top 14 and the Rugby Championship