Should Rugby Teams Rest and Rotate Players Or Not? New Zealand’s Number 10 Dilemma

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With the Rugby World Cup 2015 less than a year away, it is obvious that some teams have been resting and rotating their squads during the November Autumn Internationals, but is it better to keep experimenting or stick with the best players?

One coach asking himself this is All Blacks coach Steve Hansen who has the dilemma of how to use quality Number 10s Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden, Beauden Barrett and Colin Slade.  One may be starting to wonder who really is the best Number 10 New Zealand has to offer?  Dan Carter was average against Scotland, while Aaron Cruden, Beauden Barrett and Colin Slade have all been part of the rotation this year.  One could even argue that Slade is in the better form of the trio and this could be because he has played the least, while Carter is still returning from injury.

It was interesting seeing understrength Wales and New Zealand narrowly defeat Fiji and Scotland respectively, which received some its fair share of critics, but isn’t a win, a win?  Does the margin and manner of victory really matter, as long as you win?

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Is it better to keep the same starting team or do a complete rotation of players?  Here are some points to consider.

Rest and Rotate Players;

– gives tired players a chance to prolong their seasons and careers by taking a break.

– gives new untried players the opportunity to gain experience.

– provides teams with depth so that at any stage they have an injury, there is always someone available to step in to fill the gap.

– to win a Rugby World Cup, there are seven games in six weeks of Rugby World Cup and this will be a huge workload on most players, so it is important to not only rotate players during a Rugby World Cup.

– if players get used to being around different players all the time, then they will be ready for the time when an injury strikes in the knockout stages of the Rugby World Cup

– gives others a chance when the top players are out of form.  Surely it is impossible for the best players to maintain their form for the entire ten month rugby season.

– even a narrow win, is a win.  It doesn’t matter by how much, if you can still win without all of your top players, then it could be worth resting some players.

– it creates competition as no one is “safe” in the team.

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– it is more sustainable long term.

Not rotating and resting;

-provides an opportunity to settle on a team and build that team so well that the team gels nicely.

-this is something that works for teams with less depth.

– is about valuing test match rugby by putting out the best team onto the park in each game so you should win games rather than risking losing.

-gets an experienced core of players who have played lots of matches.

– injuries happen and so there will naturally be some forced changes.

– may have helped the All Blacks win the Rugby World Cup 2003 and 2007.  Both of these All Blacks teams had great depth, but were heavily rotated so much that they never really found their top side, even in the knockout stages of the Rugby World Cup.

– gives fans who have pre-bought tickets the chance to see the players they paid to see.

– gives players a sense of confidence knowing that they will be in the team regularly.

Should international rugby teams rotate and rest players?

I think that they should make some minor changes, but I am against teams who rotate their entire team during important test matches.  For years in the 2000s, it made too many test matches outside of Rugby World Cups a waste of time.

Who should be the All Blacks first choice first five eighth?

At full fitness, Dan Carter should start at Number 10 and should play every major test there in 2015.  The other three can battle it out for the backup spot.  I like Beauden Barrett off the bench, he is also versatile.  Whoever the selectors pick, they will need to give them plenty of gametime leading into Rugby World Cup 2015, as there is hardly any international rugby in 2015 before the Rugby World Cup starts.

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