Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: Hansen calls for player power

Hansen says NZ rugby is being held hostage by an oppressive season structure. Photo / Getty Images
Hansen says NZ rugby is being held hostage by an oppressive season structure. Photo / Getty Images

All Black coach Steve Hansen has asked the players to lead a revolution for change, saying New Zealand rugby is being held hostage by an oppressive season structure.

In the wake of Tamati Ellison's decision to pass up the chance of an All Black jersey for another stint in Japan, Hansen has taken what might be the unprecedented step of encouraging the players to be the drivers of change. Having seen his predecessors in the job make the same complaints to no avail, Hansen feels the only option left is for the players to act through their unions and leave the IRB no choice but to respond.

"Player power on the international stage [is the best way to instigate change]," Hansen said. "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 All Black coach has long been an advocate for the creation of a global season that would allow the players an extended off-season and see them play less. His exasperation at the failure of administrators to create one has been increased in recent months by the exodus of frontline NewZealand players, who are citing the overbearing physical demands of the game here and fears for their longevity as key reasons for them leaving.

Ellison is the latest to announce he will be heading to Japan later this year, despite being told he is a critical component of the All Blacks plans. Richard Kahui is another who had a test future but decided earlier this year he would shift to Japan amid fears his body wouldn't cope if he stayed.

Conrad Smith, Richie McCaw, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock and Dan Carter have all invoked sabbatical clauses in recent times to save them from burn-out, early retirement or heading offshore.

- Herald on Sunday

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