COMMENT

Let's start with a positive – the (at least in my view) reassuring noises coming from New Zealand Rugby as they tackle what is becoming one of the hottest and most divisive rugby topics in the Southern Hemisphere: the consideration of a change to the Crusaders branding and/or name.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that most decent human beings would have thought it right that the franchise, Super Rugby's most successful ever, would put their branding – swords, knights and Christian crosses - and name under the spotlight after the killing of 50 Muslims in Christchurch as they gathered to pray.

That they are doing so in a dignified and empathetic manner, with the support of New Zealand Rugby, should be applauded.

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I'm not sure if this was always the case. Admittedly, I only caught a part of a Radio Sport interview with NZR boss Steve Tew recently in which he stated any decision wouldn't be the Crusaders' to make as it would be at the discretion of his organisation, and that struck as a bit insensitive.

So his assertion in a recent statement that the status quo of the combination of the Crusaders' logo (knight and sword) along with their name was now untenable seemed a good step forward in terms of communication and sentiment to me.

This brings me, in a very roundabout way, to the issue of the resting of New Zealand's top Super Rugby players in this World Cup year, an issue which is becoming less clear and therefore less positive, every week.

Some context: The agreement was not handed down by the All Blacks coaches, although maybe it should have been more dictatorial because that would have cleared up the grey areas, something Chiefs coach Colin Cooper stated way back in February.

NZ Rugby get message right on Crusaders but wrong on protecting All Blacks. Photo / Photosport
NZ Rugby get message right on Crusaders but wrong on protecting All Blacks. Photo / Photosport

No, the protocol that all top All Blacks should play restricted minutes early in the season, that they play no more than six matches in a row, and that they should have two matches off per season (not counting the two byes), was decided on late last year by New Zealand Rugby's high performance experts and agreed on by the All Blacks coaches and all of the Kiwi Super Rugby coaches.

And yet, wing Rieko Ioane keeps on trucking for the Blues while the Chiefs have already rested Brodie Retallick in the narrow win over the Jaguares, the Highlanders rested Ben Smith and Aaron Smith in the loss to the Rebels and the Crusaders rested Richie Mo'unga and Scott Barrett in the loss to the Waratahs. Ngani Laumape and TJ Perenara, two key Hurricanes, have been used sparingly by John Plumtree.

This is no criticism of Ioane, a 22-year-old in the form of his life who not surprisingly just wants to keep going, nor of Blues' coach Leon MacDonald, who not surprisingly is desperate for that to continue.

But the supporters and coaches of the other New Zealand teams have a right to raise a collective eyebrow at what seems an inconsistent approach because their top players are just as important to their teams as Ioane is to the Blues.

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Take the grey area out of it next time; either Super Rugby coaches pick their teams with no direction from above, or they have a clearly defined set of rules set down by the All Blacks coaches.

I'm going to go out on another limb and say, with the Blues chasing their first playoff spot since 2011, Ioane won't have two matches off this season.