Rugby: Coronavirus shutdown forces new pathway for First XV, age-group talent

Every year, rugby scouts head around the country in search of New Zealand's future All Blacks.

But with a global pandemic at play, two of the main breeding grounds - high school First XV rugby and age group representative competitions - have been axed.

That's provided a unique opportunity for a development pathway reset and that could benefit New Zealand rugby in the long run. 

Christchurch Boys High school and Auckland Grammar alone have produced nearly 100 All Blacks, but there will be no traditional rivalries fought out this year and no scouts watching televised marquee match-ups. 

Christchurch BHS coach Rhys Archibald understands the impact. He's overseen First XV rugby for two decades, and was instrumental in the early careers of Anton Leinert Brown and Aaron Cruden.

"They're going to have to change the way they go out and select these guys," Archibald has told Newshub. 

The 2020 U20 Rugby World Cup in Italy has also been cancelled, but All Blacks coach Ian Foster believes scouts and talent recruiters can get creative. 

"The U20's is an important link for all the countries, but it's not the only link," he says.

"It just means we have to find different ways to replace that development and experiences they get."

And that could mean the revival of club rugby later in the year.

"The drop-off rate between First XV and club rugby is so huge, maybe this might limit the drop-off rate a bit," Archibald says.

"A lot more boys will play again next year, because they didn't have as much rugby this year and that could mean we catch someone who is late to the party."

Senior All Black Brodie Retallick was not a schoolboy superstar - he fought his way into the limelight playing for a Hawke's Bay club.

"A lot of these rough diamonds that have been missed all their lives and do develop late - we might see them picked up," says Archibald.