Sir Graham Henry calls for a complete overhaul of the Super Rugby, Rugby Championship

One of NZ rugby's greatest minds is urging major changes to the structure of the domestic and international game.

Former All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry has called for a completely fresh approach to both the Rugby Championship and Super Rugby, including promotion/relegation, and teams from Japan, the United States and Fiji. 

The COVID-19 outbreak has left NZ Rugby (NZR) scrambling to finance the game.

While Henry believes rugby in New Zealand will survive the pandemic, that may only prove a temporary fix, if the structure of the season remains the same.

The 2011 Rugby World Cup-winning coach believes the money that Japan and the United States can invest back into the sport makes them appetising partners, with the second-tier nations set to benefit on the field. 

"The future is having those three sides playing against the other Super Rugby and Rugby Championship teams," Henry told Newshub. 

"They are the three sides that have made an impression at Rugby World Cups in recent times.

"We need money in the game, and Japan and the US will help provide that.

"Having regular internationals against Fiji, USA and Japan would be a real positive step forward."

With Argentina and Australia both interested in moving north to better suit their timezone and limit travel costs, Henry said NZR's focus should be on two fronts - helping Rugby Australia succeed and ensuring the Wallabies are viable opponents, and developing the second-tier nations by reformatting what Super Rugby looks like. 

The 73-year-old wants a strong second division, with the threat of relegation hanging over sides at the top level. 

"I think it is also important to have a level below that, where you would fit a second-tier Super Rugby - say teams out of Canada, the States, Tonga, Western Australia, Samoa and Japan." 

"Those teams would play at a 'Super' level, below the current Super level, and you would have automatic promotion and relegation, with one dropping in and out every season.

"The Super Rugby competition and developing those second-tier nations is critical for Australian and New Zealand rugby to take the game forward.

"We must look after the Pacific Island teams, and include the likes of Canada, the US and Japan in that. 

"We need a mix of all those teams playing in a reformatted Super Rugby."

Henry has also suggested the Mitre10 Cup runs alongside Super Rugby, as a feeder competition at an amateur level.