The financial squeeze is on as the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) today announced the scrapping of a minor competition and no matches for New Zealand Maori or the Heartland 15 in 2009.
The NZRU wants to reduce the budgets of the national teams programme by $1 million, which includes spending reductions on the All Blacks assembly costs, the Black Ferns national women's team, age grade and development programmes, the Heartland 15 and the New Zealand Maori programme.
Among the changes is the end of the men's competition involving the B sides of the 14 Air NZ Cup provinces.
The announcement follows last week's unveiling of an additional funding package to assist the 26 provincial unions.
Chief executive Steve Tew said that the NZRU had taken a "deliberately cautious approach" to its 2009 budget with an expectation that economic conditions globally and in New Zealand were likely to worsen further before they start improving.
"While we have benefited from some upside in 2008, based largely on favourable exchange rate movements, we are projecting a loss in 2009 and within that budget we still have significant revenue at risk.
"As a result, we have taken what we believe to be a sensible approach to our budget and have proactively reduced activity while we can manage the impacts rather than have changes forced on us."
The Heartland 15, will now assemble only every two years, instead of annually. They toured north America this year, but will not tour overseas or play matches in 2009.
The Black Ferns women's team will have a limited programme next year, which is geared towards preparing for the World Cup in 2010.
New Zealand Maori will not assemble in 2009 at all and will instead be replaced in the Pacific Nations Cup by the Junior All Blacks, who last played in 2007.
The NZRU decided that given the limited opportunities to assemble national teams in 2009 priority would be given to the Junior All Blacks as the second ranked national men's team.
Tew said while the long-term view was that New Zealand Maori were the best fit for the Pacific Nations Cup, the development of the top level of players as a pathway to the All Blacks was a more urgent priority in 2009.
"However, it is important to remember that Maori rugby, together with other areas of our game, still benefits from the annual funding of provincial unions."
The NZRU is still exploring opportunities for matches overseas for New Zealand Maori which would be contingent on those fixtures generating revenue to cover the cost of the team's assembly.
Tew said there had been budget reductions across most of the NZRU activity for 2009, including administration, but where possible funding levels were maintained for priority areas such as community rugby, core provincial union funding and development.
"Some of these were very tough decisions as they impact on people's rugby development, aspirations and opportunities.
"If economic conditions improve over time, we hope to be able to reinstate some or all of the programmes which will be affected in 2009."