Former All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has urged his former employers to be strong in their negotiations over the future of Super Rugby and that New Zealand Rugby owed trans-Tasman neighbours Australia no favours.
Tensions between the organisations ratcheted up this week, with Rugby Australia (RA) chairman Hamish McLennan saying he felt the relationship had deteriorated to one of a “master-servant”.
Hansen, who spent almost 16 years with the All Blacks, however, said he felt that NZR should be doing what was best for their rugby players.
“Without being controversial, we have been looking after the Aussies for years,” Hansen said on Sunday.
“And every time we have required something from them, particularly at a high level, sometimes they have gone missing.
“Do we owe them something? No. But because we are the nation we are, and we care about the game more than just ourselves, we bend and buckle a bit.
“I think NZ Rugby are in the mood for having strong discussions because they only get one shot at it.”
Much of the fallout has centred on the composition of Super Rugby from 2021, with both countries reportedly keen on exploring a trans-Tasman competition rather than reverting to a tournament that involves teams from South Africa and Argentina.
McLennan told Australian media this week that a leaked report suggested NZR’s preferred option was to have just two or three Australian sides in a trans-Tasman competition.
Hansen said what was most important was not to dilute New Zealand’s player pool with more than five teams and to minimise travel for the welfare of the players.
“You have got to start with what do you want out of it? Rather than, ‘OK, we are going to have this competition,’” Hansen said.
It has to be really competitive and produce world-class players. If you allow it to become watered-down, there is too big a gap between Super Rugby and test rugby.
On the field, TJ Perenara, Kobus Van Wyk and Devan Flanders crossed for tries as the Hurricanes defeated the Highlanders 17-11 in yesterday's Super Rugby Aotearoa clash in Wellington.
The Hurricanes led 12-0 after a strong first half which set up their win and although they had 70 per cent of possession after the break, they were outscored by the Highlanders. The match featured an outstanding contest between the All Blacks scrum-halves Aaron Smith and Perenara who both scored tries
On Saturday, the Crusaders saw off an intense challenge from the Blues in a furious final quarter to complete a 26-15 victory in their vital Super Rugby Aotearoa clash in Christchurch. The hosts have now won all four of their Super Rugby Aotearoa matches and ended the Blues' seven-game winning streak across both Super Rugby and the local competition
Meanwhile Exeter Chiefs have announced new contracts for 30 squad members following the salary cap cut agreed last month. The likes of England trio Jack Nowell, Henry Slade and Luke Cowan-Dickie, as well as Scotland skipper Stuart Hogg, are among those to have signed long-term deals at Sandy Park.
Premiership Rugby clubs came to an agreement in June to slash their salary cap by £1.4million in the wake of the financial damage cast upon the sport by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Gallagher Premiership is set to resume in August.
The new salary cap comes into effect from the 2021/22 campaign and Exeter have wasted no time in making sure they fall in line.
"I'm delighted with what has happened," Chiefs' director of rugby Rob Baxter said.
"It seems strange really, because there has been an awful lot of news coming out from other clubs in regards what is happening around pay cuts, players leaving, players staying, yet we have got on with our business pretty quickly.
"They are all different and not one of them is the same. It's meant us having individual discussions with players and agents, but in the end I feel like we've all got what we need out of it."