Amiria Rule: Sevens a threat to Black Ferns
Amiria Rule has warned the New Zealand Rugby Union to not let their pursuit of Olympic sevens glory be at the detriment of the women's 15-a-side game.
Rule, a Black Ferns representative since 2000, has concerns the NZRU's desire to promote their world champion sevens women's team could impinge on the 15-a-side team's preparations for next year's World Cup defence in France.
It is understood the reason for the delay in the players collective agreement being signed-off is because the New Zealand Rugby Players Association are still waiting for the NZRU to agree the women's sevens team would be paid a retainer of around $30,000, with assembly fees to be added.
The men's team are expected to be awarded improved contracts of between $90,000-100,000. The Black Ferns, however, will receive no such lump sums.
When on tour they receive a daily allowance of $175 and costs such as flights, gear and accommodation are also covered. Rule said she isn't driven by money but does want the NZRU to ensure the 15-a-side game doesn't suffer at the expense of the sevens team's Olympic aspirations.
She is concerned the Black Ferns have been dropped out of the High Performance programme, denying the team access to items such as physios and gyms over the last two years.
''It's definitely going to be a struggle for 15s to stay at the fore of women's rugby. I'm not playing rugby to make money,'' Rule, a primary school teacher, said.
''I would much rather have access to things like doctors and physios and that is something we have stressed to Rob Nichol (NZRPA boss) who has been really great for us. We can't remain competitive without these sort of facilities."
Rule acknowledges the NZRU are following the International Rugby Board's lead in driving the sevens component ahead of the Olympics. The IRB also funds the world sevens circuits.
She is also pragmatic about the challenges the 15's game faces here in New Zealand. Because the country is so isolated, it is difficult to play meaningful matches on a regular basis.
Rule said playing regular matches against Australian and Samoan teams was one solution. The NZRU must be mindful that promoting sevens may not have positive spin-offs for the longer version of the sport.
''For 15s you still need people who have the build to play as front rowers and locks. They say sevens is going to help the growth of women's rugby but you're not going to get props and locks turning up to play sevens rugby.
''Definitely, it's a tough time to plan ahead.''
The Black Ferns are the current world champions, having won the World Cup in 2010.
''It is important for 15s to be put back on a pedestal for next year's World Cup,'' Rule added.
''For 15s to stay ahead here in New Zealand they (the NZRU) need to keep the NPC going. If there is no NPC there are no Black Ferns. I just hope they don't knock our feet out from under us.''
Canterbury's opening NPC match is against Auckland on September 7.
Canterbury coach John Sherratt will name his 26-strong squad following today's club final match between Sydenham - Rule's team - and University at Linwood.
- Fairfax Media