Rugby: All Black Sam Whitelock wants player input into global season

Veteran All Black Sam Whitelock is intrigued by rugby's mooted global rugby strategy, but wants it explored and debated by executives and players alike.

Sir Bill Beaumont was re-appointed World Rugby chairman on Sunday, with the implementation of an annual cross-hemisphere test tournament one of his main goals. 

The idea would see Japan and Fiji join the Rugby Championship, with the winners to face the top Six Nations side at the end of every season. 

But Whitelock, who has been touted as the next All Blacks captain, would like to see the idea expanded to include the possibility of club sides matching up.

The 115-test lock has told Newshub that conversation needs to be inclusive and involve representatives from all sides of the rugby industry. 

"In general, aligning the world's competitions to open up these possibilities is a good thing," Whitelock says.

"You can imagine having the best northern v southern hemisphere clubs and international sides meeting every couple of years would be pretty cool. 

"There is an appetite to see that - Munster v the Crusaders sounds pretty cool. There are options on the table, and we just need to work through those and debate them."

The 31-year-old is a fan of the international programme the way it is, but sees the value in expanding to include the Pacific and Asia. 

As for the future of Super Rugby, Whitelock sees a need for subtle change - as long as it makes sense - to ensure the future of New Zealand rugby is financially sound.  

"What I love about Super Rugby is how hard it is," he says. "Whether you are playing tough derby games or travelling overseas to play on foreign soil, the supporters from opposition sides, both in New Zealand and the other nations... it's a challenge and that's what I've always enjoyed about the competition.

"It'll be interesting to see what happens and where we go. I just hope that everyone in New Zealand understands the decision will be to help the future of rugby in New Zealand and that's what's most important."

And the Crusaders great confirmed he will be raring to go, when Super Rugby gets the green light. NZR hopes to start sometime in June, which is perfect timing for Whitelock, whose Japanese adventure was cut short due to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Whitelock was meant to play an entire season with the Panasonic Wild Knights, but returned home early in March, with border closures imminent.

"It's great being back home and given the circumstances, it's great to know we are pretty close to friends and family.

"But things [regarding the Crusaders] may not be too different. Originally, I wasn't scheduled to be back in Christchurch until June 1 and that actually might be pretty close to what happens anyway. 

"We have a pretty good idea of what the season may look like, but we need to wait and see what happens with the alert levels, roll with the punches, and be prepared to get stuck in, have some fun and put smiles on rugby fans in the country."

Whitelock is also playing a key role in the post-career welfare of players, as part of New Zealand Rugby Players Association's 'EXPAND' programme. 

EXPAND is a resource for players, their families and their support networks, providing an overview of what players need to consider as their professional rugby careers progress from playing in New Zealand, moving overseas and ultimately beyond their playing days.

Whitelock, who is an NZPRA board member, says the tool provides education for players, not just in the twilight of their career, but also the younger generation to plan for life after rugby.

"There is a lot of effort and time that goes into a player's career, which can end at any time. You're always just one injury away from not being able to play again.

"EXPAND is awesome. There is a lot of information there for the players and a great tool that can help them out at any point of their professional career."