When Auckland starts its National Provincial Championship campaign this weekend, its playing strength will be almost two-thirds Polynesian. Whatever that says about Polynesian rugby players' size, strength and flair, it is clearly out of step with the city's population make-up.

The NPC squad, however, is not unique. Watch a game between leading secondary schools and there will often be the same Polynesian predominance. Change has swept through rugby in the past decade, so much so that the Auckland Rugby Union is now seeking ways to attract children from all ethnic backgrounds to the game, and keep them in it.

The essential problem for the union think-tank is the so-called soccer mums' syndrome. Parents of European heritage, fearing the consequences of their teenage sons confronting stronger and heavier Polynesian boys on the rugby field, are encouraging them to take up games in which there is less risk of injury.

On a superficial level, there is some justification for this fear. Polynesians mature more quickly than Europeans as teenagers, therefore creating a potentially tilted playing field.

Yet reality should keep that concern in check. A game of rugby today is far less dangerous than in the past. Safer techniques have slashed the number of serious injuries. And the introduction of weight grades and restrictions has largely negated the prospect of European teenagers being pitted against bulkier Polynesians.

The problem for the ARU is thus one of perception. It must convince the soccer mums that they need not fear their boys playing rugby from midgets through to the level playing field of physical maturity. That will not be easy. The boys themselves have an array of other sport and entertainment options.

Yet rugby maintains its hold on the national imagination, and an All Black jersey is still the ambition of most young boys. That, surely, is a good basis for eradicating a misbelief.