TUNING OUT: Liam Messam leads the Haka before an All Blacks international. Messam will be rested as part of an agreement with Super Rugby sides and the national team.
TUNING OUT: Liam Messam leads the Haka before an All Blacks international. Messam will be rested as part of an agreement with Super Rugby sides and the national team. Ian Macnicolaap

All Blacks moving to their own beat

NEW Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew says the organisation will not follow Australia's lead and relax eligibility laws to allow overseas-based Kiwi players to represent the All Blacks.

The Australian Rugby Union announced this week that anyone who had played at least 60 Tests for the Wallabies, or who had provided seven years of service, would be considered for national selection.

Tew said while you could "never say never", there was no suggestion the policy would be changed.

"Our view has been, for a very long time, that one of the key planks in our ability to retain our players in New Zealand, and for us to continue to have a system where we produce talent, we need to have our top players playing in New Zealand," he said.

"And, therefore the All Black jersey is part of that eligibility."

Meanwhile, round 11 of the Super Rugby competition will kick off tonight with the Chiefs hosting the Western Force, and the Brumbies at home to the Highlanders.

The Chiefs have brought in 20-year-old Marty McKenzie in place of fly-half Aaron Cruden who will miss the rest of the season, and probably the World Cup, after rupturing his ACL in last week's 26-9 win against the Crusaders.

McKenzie has played mostly at fullback and beat his older brother Damien for first shot at the all-important No.10 jersey.

Coach Dave Rennie has chosen the match against the Force, winless in its past eight outings, to rest skipper Liam Messam. Under an agreement with the All Blacks, every player in the national squad must sit out two games during the Super Rugby season to try to avoid burnout.

Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph has also chosen tonight's match against the Brumbies in Canberra to rest his three star players.

Halfback Aaron Smith, centre Malakai Fekitoa and fullback Ben Smith will all take the night off, Joseph saying the timing was less than perfect.

"It's not an ideal time to rest any player really, but that's a commitment that all the franchises have made towards the All Blacks," he said. "Also, I feel like there's some players who have started every game and if we are going to be going well towards the end of the competition, then those guys need a breather."

The Brumbies lead the Australian conference, but only on sufference after disappointing losses to the Blues and Rebels in the past two weeks.

Star centre Tevita Kuridrani will make a welcome return after injuring his shoulder in the 28-13 loss to the Waratahs on March 22, while fullback Jesse Mogg comes in for his first game of the season.

Round 11 draw (home teams first): Chiefs v Force, Brumbies v Highlanders, Crusaders v Blues, Waratahs v Rebels, Lions v Cheetahs, Stormers v Bulls, Reds v Hurricanes.


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