New Zealand Rugby likes to portray the image of being inclusive and harmonious. As with any image, it is never as perfect as it seems.
NZ Rugby is comparable to a pyramid, one where the All Blacks ultimately benefit. That's where most interest centres, and that team therefore has most say. The theory is everything filters towards the top.
When it comes to rugby, we like to think New Zealand leads the way. Successive World Cup crowns and the All Blacks retaining the No 1 ranking over eight years perpetuates this notion.
Within that, though, very real competitive tensions still exist.
Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd suggesting he hasn't spoken to All Blacks counterpart Steve Hansen in three years - hinting at a strained relationship in the process - is a clear example of such instances.
With Boyd securing his future at Northampton, after one final season with the Hurricanes, it appears he now feels free to express sentiments usually concealed by others for fear of upsetting powerbrokers.
It would be very odd if Boyd has not directly spoken to Hansen during his three seasons at the helm of the Hurricanes, a period in which he transformed the franchise; guided their maiden title, one other blown final in 2015 and last year's semifinal defeat in Johannesburg.
Regardless of his contact with Hansen, Boyd has certainly had regular dealings with the All Blacks in that time. Some positive; some not so, no doubt.
Ian Foster, Mike Cron and Wayne Smith - before he stepped down mid-last year - frequently visit all five New Zealand Super Rugby teams each season, catching up with players of national interest and coaches to share visions for the year.
Now departed high performance manager Don Tricker would also provide something of a sounding board for both parties.
His absence may already prove telling.
Boyd's jibe at Hansen – that's how the throwaway line looks without any added context – probably comes from a place of understandable frustration.
It comes at a time when All Blacks begin to rejoin their respective Super Rugby teams. And a time when Super Rugby coaches are contemplating the All Blacks holding four potentially disruptive training camps this year.
While only expected to attend two of those camps, there is a lot of nervousness about the timing and impact they could have. Asking All Blacks to be all over Super Rugby tactics and ready to play after returning from a mid-week camp elsewhere may cause headaches.
As it stands, integrating All Blacks after their valuable 12-week conditioning break or injury comebacks, and getting them up to speed with the rest of the squad who have been training in earnest since December, is not an easy task.
The Blues have identified they did not handle this situation well last year. Over the years they are not alone.
Todd Blackadder may well have captured a title with the Crusaders had it not been for the taxing June test series.
In his six years at the Chiefs, Dave Rennie and All Blacks management regularly disagreed on how players should be used throughout the season. Damian McKenzie is the most recent example with the All Blacks wanting him to gain experience at first five-eighth, and Rennie believing Aaron Cruden at 10 was best for his team.
All Blacks objectives often don't match Super Rugby coaches, whose jobs are judged on results in their space.
Super Rugby coaches love derby matches – they fill coffers, provide compelling rugby and a chance to target key competition points. While the All Blacks take note of performances in these matches over others, they also worry about the brutality and injury toll.
Ultimately, the All Blacks want to protect their core players for their windows. Naturally that runs at odds with Super Rugby mentors.
The crux of the issue comes around central contracting. For the All Blacks, this remains a major competitive advantage, allowing them to manage players nationally.
Establishing shared databases which, among other things, monitor players' workloads is much easier with all players contracted to the national body.
Abroad, high-powered clubs largely dictate terms as they pay players and, therefore, have much more autonomy. Under this system the national team often suffers – look no further than France.
Here, generally, what the All Blacks say goes – even if directives aren't always delivered from the very top.
Balance is required on all fronts. Before signing off, Boyd's crack suggests he feels it may be tipping too far in the All Blacks' favour.
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