Super Rugby Coaches Face Thorny Player Rest Issue in World Cup Year

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Time to say it again. Rugby players are worked too hard.

Imagine being the coach of a Super Rugby club and contemplate trying to win the competition when there is pressure above simply doing your job added in by pressure to preserve players for the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

The potential consequences of holding an international our of a Super Rugby fixture include such things as playing finals or missing out, or having a home game or flying overseas.

Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson decided to rest several key players for a recent game at MacDonald Jones stadium, but he had the luxury of having stars to step in as plug-and-play replacements.

The proposition at the halfway point of a tight 2019 Super Rugby Championship is daunting at this stage, but when things come down to the run home, will anyone remember a coach who lost a premiership because his patriotism induced him to rest his potential internationals when it comes time to secure a contract?

Gibson’s decision to rest Bernard Foley and give playing time to Mack Mason cost the Waratahs an embarrassing 31 – 29 loss to the Sunwolves in the week following the triumphant streak-ending victory over the Crusaders.

It was a case of riding high in March, shot down in March for NSW and it can only be wondered what purpose was accomplished by resting top-calibre players when World Cup is still months in the future.

Second-guessing coaching decisions is an international pastime, one that is quite enjoyable.

Purely for conjecture’s sake, assume that had Foley played, the Waratahs would have at least beat the Sunwolves. Then, imagine Foley blowing up a knee ligament. A coach in that scenario could expect not only second, but also third and fourth, possibly fifth guesses.

The Rebels look like the team to beat in the Australian Conference, but only two wins separate them from the bottom, so theoretically at least, the winner of the conference is anyone’s guess.