Henry blasts weakened test sides
All Blacks coach Graham Henry wants the IRB to help strengthen Test sides.
Last Modified: 29 May 2007 14:47 GMT

Graham Henry has one of the most important jobs in New Zealand, All Blacks coach [GALLO/GETTY]

All Blacks coach Graham Henry believes the International Rugby Board needs to act to prevent northern hemisphere clubs damaging rugby's image by withholding players from test tours.
Henry announced a full-strength New Zealand lineup for Saturday's first test against a French team substantially weakened by the absence of players.
The 26-man French squad which arrived in New Zealand on Tuesday includes 14 uncapped rookies and a number of veterans recalled to make up for the absence of players from clubs such as Biarritz, Toulouse and Stade Francais who have withheld players for the playoffs in the domestic championships.

France's two-test tour is running simultaneously with a visit to Australia
by an under-strength Welsh team and the South African tour by a sub-par English side, beaten 58-10 by the Springboks in last weekend's first test.

"I think the IRB needs to lead and lead very strongly and work with the
clubs in Europe to ensure we preserve this great game, and at the moment there's not a lot of sign of that," Henry said.

"When sides are coming to this side of the world that are not as strong as they should be that's not good for the game."

New Zealand has not always had its full strength lineup for tests in recent seasons because of injuries and rotations, but has the luxury of depth.

"The All Blacks team that went to Europe last November was the best All
Blacks team we could put on the track," Henry said.

"We're holding up our end of the bargain, we're showing a lot of integrity there. We're putting the international game first but it's not a good situation at the moment."

Organisational chaos

Henry said the issue of scheduling club and international fixtures had to
be addressed.

"To have the French competition's semifinal and final over the next two
Saturdays ... for me that's organisational chaos for the game," he said.

"How can the international board and the French federation not have their heads together on that one?

"These things need to be talked about and solved. The game's bigger than that."

Henry said massive wins such as South Africa's over 2003 World Cup winner England undermined the credibility of the international game.

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