If ever there was a competition that needed the top players on the field week-in-week-out, it’s Super Rugby.
But under the Wallabies’ resting policy in a World Cup year, it has been dictated to Australian teams that key players will be rested for one or two weeks and identified players can’t play more than five games in a row.
This has proven to be flexible. A case in point is Michael Hooper’s clearance to play six games in a row for the Waratahs.
The aim is to ensure the Wallabies aren’t burnt out by the time the World Cup starts in France in September.
The All Blacks have a similar policy with the resting of key players for two games, with no All Black playing more than five games in a row. The only difference between the Wallabies and the All Blacks policy is that identified New Zealand players leave the Super Rugby team environment completely during their two-game break.
The problem is that it halts momentum and confuses the supporter base.
The Brumbies this season rested five Wallabies while another two were ruled out with injury for the game against the Crusaders in round five. The Brumbies went down 35-17.
Again on the weekend, the Brumbies, under the resting policy, had a plethora of stars on the sidelines in the 34-19 loss to the Western Force.
The reality is that the Brumbies had no option under the policy guidelines.
The policy itself needs scrutiny.
If a Wallaby starting player played every Super Rugby, World Cup game and tests this year, including the finals in both Super Rugby and the World Cup, it would amount to 29 games.
If you then discount the two mandatory stand-down games, it comes back to 27.
That is the maximum possible. The likelihood is that it won’t be that many if the Brumbies don’t make the Super Rugby final or the Wallabies fail to qualify for the World Cup final. Or players miss games through injury.
Some players are also expected to be rested for the World Cup game against Georgia.
Contrast this with rugby league. Panthers captain Isaah Yeo. In 2022, he played 23 games in the NRL, three origin games and five tests in the World Cup to bring his tally to 31.
Another interesting aspect of the Brumbies resting their Wallabies against the Force is that if the Brumbies make the final, it will be the fifth game in a row for selected players with two rounds to go and three playoff games.
The Brumbies have also opted to rest star players for the two away games to ensure they are available for every round at Canberra Stadium.
Back to the concept of resting so many Wallaby players at once, surely there is a loss of momentum with rested players coming in and out of teams.
History has shown how damaging it can be.
In 2002 the Waratahs, having secured a finals berth, opted to rest key players for the last regular season game against the Crusaders.
The Waratahs were thumped 96-19 by the Crusaders before going down to the Brumbies 51-10 in the first week of the finals.
The hope is that the Brumbies can regain their continuity for games against the Chiefs and the Rebels before the finals.
The Brumbies take on the Chiefs today, 27 May, at GIO Stadium Canberra, Bruce. Tickets from Ticketek.
Original Article published by Tim Gavel on Riotact.