Super 14 Rugby

Henry backs O’Neill’s expansion plans



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Australian boss John O’Neill has found someone who believes in his ideas of expanding the Super 14 – All Blacks coach Graham Henry.

Henry, the reappointed All Black’s coach, has outlined his ideal competition structure to address the issue of player burnout as well as potentially slowing the drain of stars to Europe.

Henry’s plan would see the All Blacks playing only Super rugby and international matches, which means that the Air New Zealand Cup domestic competition becomes a second tier or developmental tournament.

Henry’s preference closely mirrors the recent proposal of O’Neill, who called for a longer Super competition which comprised teams based outside Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Players could also compete for franchises in other countries but still be clear for international competition – the June home tests and a longer string of internationals late in the year.

“I think the Super competition can be played later, go longer,” Henry told NZPA and points out that a late start would allow for the three-month off-season he wants.

“The international season is played at the end of that competition so the international players play in two competitions only.”

Henry was inspired by the proactive mood at last month’s national forum addressing the state of the game.

“There’s a real positive feel out there that there needs to be change to competitions,” he said.

“I’m hopeful that will occur reasonably quickly.”

Henry believes that it is possible to create a competition which would be as enticing as the English premiership and French Top 14 club competitions that are using their profits to buy Southern Hemisphere talent amongst other things.

“We’ve got to look at our competitions at Super level that are competitive with those competitions,” he said.

“There needs to be a major motivation of the organisation (Sanzar) to try and achieve that. It may mean that some players play offshore that are playing in that competition

“Hopefully that competition will be the best in the world.”

The existing Tri-Nations would start later and flow closely into northern hemisphere test fixtures at year’s end.

“It just gives us a longer period with the same group of people.”

Henry hoped that a change in competition structure would help keep players at home such as Daniel Carter and Nick Evans, who are both reportedly looking closely at European contracts.

Henry said every effort was being made to stop them joining others who have left in their prime such as English-based pair Carl Hayman and Luke McAlister.

“We’re trying to assist guys like DC and Nick to make sensible decisions,” Henry said.

“Hopefully those sensible decisions will be to stay in New Zealand.

“We’re really pushing the boat out to try and find a contract that is suitable.

“I don’t think all the media attention is helping.”


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