Each week, ex-All Black lock Ian Jones answers readers' questions on the state of rugby.
What's happening on the new rules front? And what can be done to clarify the tackled ball situation? Finally, what's wrong with good old fashioned rucking? Best, AJ
No new rules this year, AJ - just a renewed emphasis with clearer interpretations from the referees in the tackle/ruck area. This zone has been a trouble spot for our game. But with players from both sides getting penalised for not staying on their feet - being unable to support their own body weight - so far in the competition, we've had cleaner ball presentation to the halfbacks, away from the tangle of arms and legs in previous seasons.
This has led to quicker ball, stretched defences and plenty of tries out wide which was the desired outcome. As for good old-fashioned rucking, no problems as long as it's the ball you are moving ...
anything other than that and it's not a good look.
Being a proud Northlander and also an ex-Harbour representative, what are your thoughts on a Northland-Harbour Super 15 franchise should there be a future expansion of the tournament? Cheers, Justin
Love your thinking, Justin. Those two unions combined have the geographical spread a Super 15 franchise would need, along with the population base and business/stadium infrastructure to make it sustainable. Now all our new team needs is a competition!
How about this - stay with our three conferences but increase numbers to eight teams per conference. Conference One: Eight New Zealand sides; Conference Two: Five Australian sides, plus three from the Pacific Islands and Japan; Conference Three: Six from South Africa, plus two out of Argentina.
The benefits for New Zealand would be clear. We can sustain eight professional teams here while still having a strong All Black team, some great local derbies and a shorter season for everyone - plus it's a fresh product. Have a think.
With the likes of Parenara, Barrett, Anscombe, Blendayll and Sam Kane playing Super 15 this year, has the NZRU's age-group rugby nursery gazumped the importance of club rugby and ITM Cup in New Zealand? Kids are coming straight from high school - some never playing a full season of club rugby. Cheers, Andy
One of the reasons why we are seeing the emergence of such good young talent in this year's Super 15 comp is down in no small part to the excellent work our academy systems are doing in preparing these men for life as a professional athlete.
If some have to bypass a full club season to achieve that, then it's a sacrifice worth making. None have skipped the ITM Cup and that, along with club rugby, gives us our solid base. Our success at junior World Cup levels proves it is working.
I got three season tickets for the Blues, do you think I should have been better spending my money going to Hamilton? Is this finally the Chiefs' year for greatness? Regards, Paul
You keep hold of those tickets, Paul, and enjoy the ride the Blues will give you.
Tony Woodcock is back next weekend and you will want to be at Eden Park when Ma'a plays at home for the first time, so dress up and make some noise. As for the Chiefs, if the forwards can continue to work the hard yards and share the load at ruck time - who knows where the backs might take us.
I'm an Aussie rugby fan and wanted to know: does New Zealand rugby do more harm than good in assisting and developing players from the Pacific Island nations, Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga. Cheers, Nima
In my opinion the NZRU has done a lot of good in developing not only the players from the Pacific Islands, but the nations themselves.
The players plying their trade here get a chance to showcase their talents both in our domestic comp and at Super 15 level and then those not eligible for New Zealand representation (and there are a hell of a lot who are) are released to bolster the nations you talk about. Mo Schwelger, Sona Taumalolo and Tusi Pisi are all great examples of this.