9 Sep 2019

New boss outlines priorities for NZ Rugby

6:04 pm on 9 September 2019

Former All Black and newly appointed New Zealand rugby chief executive Mark Robinson has highlighted the need for World Rugby to do more for Pacific Nations.

Robinson was today named as long time New Zealand rugby boss Steve Tew's successor.

Robinson says World Rugby, the game's international governing body, needs to do more for tier two nations such as Fiji, Samoa and Tonga who struggle to field their top teams, as players are often under pressure from their European clubs not to play for the countries.

Robinson says that was evident in the All Blacks thrashing of Tonga.

"The major thing relating to the Pacific at the moment seems to be accessing their talent and playing in the best possible competitions possible," said Robinson.

All Blacks midfielder Ryan Crotty on the burst in the side's big win over Tonga.

All Blacks midfielder Ryan Crotty on the burst in the side's big win over Tonga. Photo: Photosport

"We saw on Saturday how concerning it is for the international game to have fixtures like that when we know that Tonga has so much more to offer to the international game along with the other Pacific Islands....and if World Rugby truly wants to be a truly global game we need those tier two unions to be as competitive as possible and to be able to grow other tier two unions, so that we have in time more teams competing at the World Cup."

On the domestic front Robinson knows the sport needs to respond the decline in numbers playing among teenage boys but feels initiatives in the Participation Plan instigated six months ago are the right approach.

"The challenge is to move quickly, so creating different formats of the game that make it more accessible and not be so rigid around sets of rules like the numbers of players that have to be on the field - making the game as open as possible seems to be critical to our future.

"I think the game is reasonable heart from the age of 5 to 11 year olds...we do have some challenges when the game becomes a contact sport and we are working hard around safety initiatives to make sure we can minimise the ability for people to access the game at that stage," he said.

New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson.

New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson. Photo: Photosport

At secondary school level "we have done a lot of in the last six months or so ...and that's a key focus for looking for new formats of the game - do we have to play on Saturday morning and afternoon every week? Do we have to practice on Tuesday's and Thursday's? Can we do more at lunchtimes?...so overall we do have challenges but I think we've started to shift the dial and bit and acknowledge that we've got to move quickly to make sure that takes hold in the communities and that provinces and clubs understand it and we can grow a new era of participation."