Super Rugby: Blues to battle All Blacks rest orders with World Cup workloads at front of mind for Kiwi coaches

With 2023 being a Rugby World Cup year, Super Rugby players, coaches and fans alike will have to get used to the disruption of All Blacks being rested and rotated throughout the course of the season.

In a bid to ensure players are kept fresh for the All Blacks' attempt to win the Webb Ellis Cup for an unprecedented fourth time, key players' workloads will be managed throughout the year. 

Regardless of their experience or role within the All Blacks, no player will be allowed to play more than five games in succession, including playoff matches.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Beauden Barrett.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Beauden Barrett. Photo credit: Getty Images

Rather than have their accumulated minutes be managed, players' match involvement - even if it's measured in the seconds - will count as one game towards the five match total.

While not new, the rest orders do represent a significant hurdle for the five Kiwi Super Rugby coaches.

For Blues boss Leon MacDonald - who has 14 All Blacks at his disposal - the quest to end a trophy drought dating back to 2003 becomes a much more difficult ask.

"That's going to be our biggest challenge - even more so this year," said MacDonald. "It's probably going to be a bit more stringent to make sure that players aren't playing more than five games [in a row].

"We've got a reasonably good chunk of All Blacks here now. You're looking at every game, there's no game where you really want to rest any of them.

"Trusting the squad is going to be really important, making sure the whole squad is ready to go.

"We did it well last year, [and] we've got to ensure we do that again this year."

That balance of getting players ready for the World Cup also comes amidst MacDonald's ultimate ambition, winning Super Rugby.

The Blues came heartbreakingly close in 2022, setting the competition standard all year before a final defeat to the Crusaders.

But MacDonald has drawn a line under the hurt of last year, and demands the lessons of 2022 be applied to 2023.

"There's a lot to play for, definitely," he continued. "[With the] World Cup, a lot of our guys will feel like they need a good season to confirm their place in the All Blacks.

"There's still a bit of unfinished business. We were pleased with last year, but to win the title is our ultimate goal.

"The message today was we start again. Last year was nice, we take some nice [lessons] from it, good [lessons] from it.

"But really, we've got to go and earn it from scratch again - that's what the message has been."