Leading All Blacks will miss the first seven rounds of next season's Super 14 competition to concentrate on their buildup to the World Cup in France, the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) said yesterday.
NZRU chief executive Chris Moller said 22 players would take part in an intensive conditioning program designed to leave them in "peak condition" for the World Cup in France and would not join the Super 14 until it's eighth round.
The 12-week program had been approved by All Blacks coaches, New Zealand's Super 14 franchises, broadcasters, sponsors and the New Zealand Rugby Players' Association, Moller said.
"We want to give the All Blacks the best possible chance of winning the Rugby World Cup and it is clear the rugby public of New Zealand share that ambition," he said. "It is critical that our top players have the opportunity to prepare in the right way so that they are in the best shape of their lives when they get to France."
"Sports science research and our coaches tell us that the players need a continuous window when they can do the necessary physical conditioning work without the rigors of playing top level rugby at the same time. The challenge has been to find that window," he said.
Moller said January to April was the ideal time for the players' physical conditioning to take place.
"We would not want to take the leading players out of November's tour to Europe or next year's Tri-Nations," he said.
"There needs to be a conditioning window following the end of the 2006 season which will require those players to miss the first seven rounds of the 2007 Super 14. This timing will maximize the benefits of the conditioning activity as it follows the summer break for the All Blacks," he said.