Rugby: Beauden’s absence a farce

Watching the seemingly hapless Blues get swept aside by the Crusaders at Eden Park on Friday and witnessing the continued struggles of the Jonathan Ruru-Steven Perofeta axis got my blood boiling.

The Blues recorded their second loss in 3 games to start the season once again, on the back foot.

All Black Beauden Barrett is currently on a sabbatical from the game after NZ Rugby, the Blues and Barrett agreed on a period of rest and rehabilitation for the All Blacks pivot-cum-fullback.

As a passionate Blues fan, the recent photos of star recruit Barrett gallivanting around the Superbowl with his mates was unpalatable to view. As was the sight of him fiddling with his smartphone and watching on awkwardly, as teammates sweated it out at Blues training. Forwards coach Tom Coventry was blindsided by reporters into revealing Barrett would make his much-anticipated debut in week seven.

The frank admission, from a frank man, was then hastily covered up quicker than the US military at the Roswell crash site by Blues PR people, who decided fans should be kept in the dark just a little while longer.

So what is the story? Was Barrett’s presence at training just to pop his head in to show he is part of the organisation? Do his sabbatical conditions preclude him from actually training with his teammates?

Beauden Barrett at the Superbowl. Photo Twitter

Whilst I have no specific beef with Barrett, and given that if the opportunity presented itself, most of us would take a six month paid break from our job, you can’t blame him directly.

What I do take umbrage with however is NZ Rugby and the Blues allowing this to happen at all.

Given the huge proportion of NZR revenue generated by the All Blacks, and the reported threat of South Africa leaving the Super Rugby competition, coupled with the lure of the Euro and Yen from European and Japanese clubs, NZ Rugby is forced to make ridiculous concessions to star players who want a break from the game.

Unfortunately, not having premier players playing locally dilutes and cheapens Super Rugby at a time when crowds are already dwindling and fans apathetic about rugby encroaching on summer sports and activities.

Granting a six-month sabbatical to any elite player in the modern era is lunacy and sets a dangerous precedent that may well strip (particularly struggling) teams of key players at a time when they need them most.

Oh yeah, one more thing. Go the Blues.