Opinion: All Blacks' Super Rugby rest orders a backwards step in New Zealand's bid for 2023 World Cup

OPINION: As we approach Super Rugby 2023, another season impacted by All Blacks rest orders leaves a sour taste in the mouth - again.

As outlined by Blues coach Leon MacDonald, All Blacks can play no more than five consecutive Super Rugby matches for their respective sides, including playoffs.

Regardless of the minutes played in a match, one appearance counts as one game added to a player's tally. In theory, this should be a good thing for the All Blacks leading into a huge year. 

The 2023 Rugby World Cup is now only seven months away, and we want our players to be in the best possible physical and mental shape for another charge at bringing home the Webb Ellis Cup.

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

That's not in dispute, but is this the way to do it?

Tarring every All Black with the same brush is in no way beneficial to the players themselves, most notably those on the fringes of selection.

For every Ardie Savea, Aaron Smith or Will Jordan - players almost guaranteed to command a starting spot in France - there's an Ethan Blackadder, TJ Perenara or Mark Telea, as players who'll want every available minute of gametime to earn a place of their own.

How is it fair to a player like Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, still coming to grips with the 15-man code, after his switch from NZ Warriors, if valuable time on the park for the Blues is restricted?

What about a player like Blackadder, out to win his way back into the All Blacks, after an injury-hit 2022, but unable to play more than five successive games for the Crusaders.

Not to mention captain Sam Cane, who faces a battle with Dalton Papali'i just to keep his No.7 jersey. 

Meanwhile, a player like the uncapped Marino Mikaele-Tu'u of the Highlanders can have a whole season to impress selectors, uninterrupted.

Being an All Black should bring an added credibility when it comes to Super Rugby, but in 2023, it only seems to hold them back. 

That's not even taking into account teams' different circumstances. 

The Blues have 14 All Blacks in their squad, and coach MacDonald has already said one of their biggest challenges this season will be balancing who he can and can't select each week.

NZ Rugby's move to a new Super Rugby structure three years ago has removed trips to South Africa and Argentina, so a hectic travel schedule shouldn't be cited as a reason for players needing a rest anymore.

A trip from Auckland to Canberra is nowhere near as taxing as Auckland-Cape Town.

There was no overt enforcement of resting the All Blacks in 2011 and 2015, when New Zealand won World Cups, but the orders were in place in 2019, when the All Blacks fell at the semi-final hurdle, and the less said about the disastrous rotation policy in 2007, the better.

Not to mention arguably the biggest loser out of the whole situation - the fans.

With a new competition format only locked in late last year, how is it fair to paying customers - a more appropriate term than 'fan' these days - if the competition's biggest stars are held out.

As Super Rugby battles for relevance against the English Premiership, Japan's Rugby League One, the South African-European hybrid United Rugby Championship and France's Top 14, stopping the best players from actually playing is a backwards step.

Given the spiralling cost of living, along with potential ticket prices, and travel to and from games, does it make sense to try and get the next generation involved in the game, if they can't even see the best New Zealand has to offer?

Alex Powell is a Newshub sport digital producer