Blues Super Rugby Aupiki coach Carlos Spencer has called on New Zealand Rugby to extend the competition, suggesting the part-time nature of the women’s game here is contributing to the Black Ferns’ decline on the international stage.
Next year’s Super Rugby Aupiki season, which starts in March, will be extended to a home and away format which means it will be made up of six rounds before the finals. This year, as it was in its inaugural season in 2022, the regular season was only three rounds long.
“[It’s] a little bit of an improvement, yeah,” Spencer said today. “It still makes things a little difficult. But it’s the same for every team. In an ideal world we’d all like it to be a little different.
“It just needs to be longer. We need more time with the girls, to be honest. Twice a week isn’t ideal. A full week would be lovely.
“I’m sure that’s planned for the future, hopefully.”
Super Rugby Aupiki players are currently contracted from Thursday until Sunday, effectively enough time for two full days of training per week.
Spencer, speaking to the media at Eden Park today as the Blues announced former Black Ferns sevens star Niall Williams-Guthrie would play for them next season, made reference to the Black Ferns’ recent below-par performances in the WXV1 competition held in New Zealand and won by England.
“All the Northern Hemsiphere teams – England and France – I think they’re full time,” former All Black Spencer said. “That showed, obviously, in the past tournament we’ve had here. It shows what full-time [commitment] can provide for a team. We were probably a little bit behind the eight ball, to be honest.
“We don’t have the time and luxury those girls have in the Northern Hemisphere. Hopefully it’s a wake-up call to New Zealand Rugby that things have to change.”
Spencer is preparing for his second Super Rugby Aupiki season and said of coaching the Blues, a franchise he represented with distinction: “I just love the energy they bring. It gives me energy. They’re very coachable and they just bring so much fun to the game and that’s what I love.”
Williams-Guthrie, 35, is contracted to the Blues for a season before she will return to play for the Gold Coast Titans in the NRLW competition.
A former sevens specialist, she has previously played flanker in her limited 15s career but is likely to play in the midfield for the Blues.