No All Blacks-style rest protocols for Wallabies

Sam Cane of the Chiefs looks on from the bench Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images

As the debate around player management policies and rest weeks continues across the Tasman, it appears Wallabies management are taking a different approach to their All Blacks counterparts.

The earliest start to a Super Rugby competition on record has thrown up a number of issues for tournament organisers this year, not least of which is the workload management of key Test players.

New Zealand Rugby has enforced protocols that require leading All Blacks such as Sam Cane, Richie Mo'unga and others to have their playing time managed across the opening weeks of the competition while, as it stands, they must also sit out two regular-season games entirely. They were also not permitted to play any preseason games.

The requirements have drawn criticism from a number of Super Rugby coaches, including Chiefs boss Warren Gatland and Highlanders assistant Tony Brown, while the Crusaders' Jason Ryan also aired his grievances in citing Joe Moody as an example of how the plan might not actually be in a player's best interests.

"Joe Moody this week went straight into 50 minutes of a NZ derby without having any pre-season games," Ryan said.

"[He] was reasonably sore [after the game], and it is player welfare. He said himself, the more physicality he has before going straight into a game against the Chiefs, it's going to be better for him in the long term."

Those cries have at last been heard by NZ Rugby with All Blacks coach Ian Foster confirming the policy would be reviewed, though the former assistant - he was promoted to the top job following Steve Hansen's departure - stopped short of saying the protocols would be removed completely.

There is no such problem for the four Australian franchises however in what is a rare bit of good news for the struggling conference. Only the unbeaten Brumbies are on the board for 2020, but face a step up in Round 3 on Saturday with a first game against New Zealand opposition in the Highlanders.

ESPN can reveal no blanket management policy is at this stage in place for any Wallabies hopeful, despite the fact former coach Michael Cheika mandated a two-game rest policy ahead of last year's World Cup.

A Rugby Australia spokesperson confirmed to ESPN that "individual player plans" were instead being worked through under the guidance of director of rugby Scott Johnson.

The spokesperson wouldn't be drawn on the specifics and said the details remained fluid but that the new Wallabies management didn't subscribe to the one-size-fits-all approach being used in New Zealand.

The All Blacks of course played one more game than the Wallabies at the Rugby World Cup - remembering New Zealand's final pool game against Italy was cancelled - but that bronze medal match fell a full fortnight after the Wallabies had been beaten by England.

That resulted in a shorter offseason for New Zealand's top players and the mandate that they play no part in preseason fixtures.

It may yet be that leading Wallabies such as Michael Hooper, Scott Sio, Alan Alaalatoa and others are given a break during the year. But after the slow starts made by the Rebels, Waratahs and Reds, the fact that respective coaches Dave Wessels, Rob Penney and Brad Thorn can at least attempt to turn their teams around with their key strike players should at least be of some comfort.

Barring a draw on Friday night, either the Waratahs or Rebels will bring up a first win for the season given the two sides meet at AAMI Park. The Reds, meanwhile, face a daunting task on the second week of their tour away to the Jaguares who were pipped in the final minutes by the Hurricanes in Round 2.