COMMENT:

The All Blacks are world champions all right, at making life confusing. Even for themselves.

The playing time constraints on Super Rugby All Blacks were a mess.

Trainspotters aside, the paying public, the customers, were faced with a muddle. The competition, once again, has been randomly skewed from above. And it hardly helps some players find their rhythm.

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But wait, there's more.

Along came All Blacks Foundation Day, where — apparently — the leading World Cup candidates bonded and gathered for a blast of coach Steve Hansen's wisdom.

What on earth could be confusing about that?

Here's what.

The rules were not clear when the initial squad announcement was reported.

In a high profile example, it turns out that Ma'a Nonu wasn't necessarily left out. Nonu, the 103 test comeback kid, didn't qualify for a foundation day invite.

Because only later did we find out, through Hansen, that only players involved with the All Blacks last year could be invited to the 2019 foundation day, under an agreement with the Super Rugby franchises.

Having spent years disrupting Super Rugby, New Zealand Rugby didn't want to disrupt the franchises too much even though it's World Cup year, and there will be no All Black camps during Super Rugby.

But wait, there's more.

Having already picked 2017 non-test loosie Akira Ioane in the Foundation Day Squad — despite Ioane having only tenuous contact with the All Blacks last year — they added Atu Moli this week.

Late charge - what does the mysterious late call-up for Atu Moli really mean in the World Cup year? Photo / Photosport.
Late charge - what does the mysterious late call-up for Atu Moli really mean in the World Cup year? Photo / Photosport.

Moli, the Chiefs prop, missed virtually all of last season, after being injured in the first Super Rugby game.

His only involvement with the All Blacks in 2018 was probably watching them on TV. By their own agreement with franchises, he doesn't qualify for the foundation squad.

And nor does Akira Ioane, let's be honest. He was not picked in any All Black squad last year, but invited to tag along with the team preparing to play France in order to work on his game.

Ioane's selection stretched the rule, Moli's made a complete mockery of it.

And if I'm reading this wrong, I accept no blame because it is New Zealand Rugby which makes it so confusing.

Yes, Owen Franks has injury concerns, but those have been ongoing so who knows what exactly inspired the selectors to belatedly call on young Moli?

Maybe it was when Foundation Day squad prop Angus Ta'avao was chewed up by the Blues scrum on Saturday night. Boom prospect Moli is, like the athletic Ta'avao, a tighthead who can cover the loosehead side. That's no coincidence in my book.

The old doubts about Ta'avao's scrummaging almost certainly returned in Hamilton, where Hansen and fellow selector Grant Fox were in the stands.

Being able to make these sorts of decisions is how it should work in the actual World Cup years.

Why make it difficult with weird squad eligibility rules, with preparation time actually quite short?

And the way it unfolded also means that this year's first major debate over the World Cup selections was conducted under false pretences. We, the public, would like to not only be involved, but in an informed way.

It represented an odd start to this great nation's very reason for getting up each morning — the mighty 2019 World Cup defence.