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Stick To Guns On Air NZ Cup, Says Henry

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Graham Henry
Graham Henry

Auckland, Dec 8 NZPA - Another rethink of the Air NZ Cup rugby format could be a recipe for endless debates and changes, All Blacks coach Graham Henry says.

Plans to abandon the present 14-team format in favour of a 10-team top tier and a six-team middle tier are reportedly due to be reconsidered by the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) at a meeting on Friday this week.

The NZRU will instead be considering a Players' Association proposal of two divisions of seven teams from 2011, the New Zealand Herald reported today.

When asked by reporters for his view on the competition upon the All Blacks' return from Europe today, Henry said the NZRU should stick to its earlier decision.

"Whatever they agreed, which was a legal agreement between the provinces of the NZRU, they spent a lot of time on that and everybody said `yeah, that's what we want', I think that's what they should stick by, otherwise they're going to continue to have this hassle," he said.

"I just think if you're going to go forward, you've just got to have an integrity in those things and go by what you say.

"Otherwise you're always going to have these problems, you're going to have people arguing about it, people coming from left field making big suggestions when they don't know what's going on. I just think they should adhere to what they agreed upon."

Henry didn't think any changes to the Air NZ Cup would impact on the depth in New Zealand rugby.

"I think you'll see the players who've got the quality will make sure they play football."

The competitive nature of the Air NZ Cup prompted criticism of the NZRU's initial plan for next year's tournament.

According to the Herald, the Players' Association proposal would see a full 14-team round-robin remain in 2010, before the competition split into first and second divisions of seven teams from 2011.

The final positions in next year's Air New Zealand Cup would determine the divisional split, not the criteria the NZRU was using to cull four teams under the 10-6 proposal.

The seven-seven split would mean there would be no need to promote two Heartland unions, a move which raised serious concerns at a recent players' conference.

A provincial union source said the proposal would be tabled to chief executives in Wellington on Friday and they would have the opportunity to endorse it or raise concerns.

NZRU chief executive Steve Tew was returning from Europe with the All Blacks and unavailable for comment. The head of the Players' Association, Rob Nichol, refused to discuss the proposal because of the protocols of collective bargaining.

The proposal means the strongest teams would still be guaranteed to play each other every year, while the second division teams retained contact with the first division, ensuring the lower tier did not become a "wilderness" competition.


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