New Zealand Rugby boss Mark Robinson has fronted the concussion cloud hanging over the game, revealed the All Blacks opponents for next year but pushed back a fraught decision on the future of the Mitre 10 Cup format after the national body's final board meeting of the year.
Consensus on whether the Mitre 10 Cup's two-tiered Championship and Premiership format should be retained, or the 14 unions instead split into North and South pools with four crossover games, has not been reached.
While New Zealand Rugby's preference is to push ahead with the revamped North and South pool format to slash over $700,000 in travel and accommodation costs, further consolation with the unions, Players' Association and broadcast partner Sky is required and an agreement is now not likely before Christmas.
The Herald understands a standoff has developed with the players resisting a change of format while NZR wants to save costs following its $40 million hit to cash reserves this year.
Robinson did confirm provincial union funding would be cut by 10 per cent next year and the Farah Palmer Cup would return to a national competition in 2021.
"There is not 100 per cent unanimous agreement and that's why we have to take a little bit more time to work through and finalise that," NZ Rugby boss Mark Robinson said of the Mitre 10 Cup format standoff.
"We've established the fact that we're going to reach out to our stakeholders in the very near future and working on a basic principle, the same number of teams, played across the same window, look at a couple of different options and share those in a little more detail and work through with our key stakeholders.
"In terms of the future of the game there have to be steps taken to make it more sustainable but it does provide development pathways."
Robinson confirmed the All Blacks will, Covid permitting, welcome Italy (two tests) and Fiji (one) in July.
Following the Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup fixtures, the All Blacks hope to trek north in November for their traditional end of season tour where they will face Italy for a third time as well as Ireland and France.
Two additional tests are likely to be added around those November tests, with matches in the United States, Japan and Europe all possibilities.
"We're looking at opportunities to play games outside our regular window in November. We've got a relatively new All Black group who had a very truncated season this year so we want to provide opportunity for them to play. There are financial considerations that go with these decisions, and we have to balance that with player welfare."
On the vexed issue of concussion, following news that eight men, including 2003 Rugby World Cup-winner Steve Thompson, are planning legal action against World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union, Robinson largely ducked for cover with NZ Rugby not yet directly implicated in the lawsuit.
Robinson, the former All Blacks midfielder, confirmed he suffered head knocks during his career but had no lingering effects.
"As a player I played for a long time and have suffered concussions on a few occasions and played at a time where certainly the education in this space was continuing to grow.
"We took all the precautions back when I was an athlete and we've only got better over time.
"I personally spoke to [World Rugby chairman] Bill Beaumont around a number of issues in this area last night. It's hard for me to comment around what's coming out of London and any potential legal action but I would reiterate we are committed to and have been for some time around mitigating, educating around concussion in our country.
"We know we can be better and must keep working in this area because it is very complex. We have a huge amount of sympathy and empathy for anyone in rugby struggling at this time both domestically and internationally – our hearts go out to them.
"The potential for class action is a reality of the situation that's emerged offshore that we can't talk about in any detail."
Other news includes NZ Rugby receiving $5.41 million from the Government's sport recovery package - $3.4m of which will focus on Maori, women and disabilities, with the remaining $2.41 million invested in sevens in preparation for next year's scheduled Olympic Games.
NZ Rugby also set an objective for all its boards to embrace 50 per cent diversity, including one third female representation, by 2024.