New Zealand Rugby must consider World Cup eligibility adjustment

Lima Sopoaga has endured a mixed first season with English club, Wasps Alex Davidson/Getty Images

There have been a few talking points in New Zealand's rugby world lately but none of more immediate issue for the All Blacks than Damian McKenzie's injury.

McKenzie's injury has actually highlighted something we need to prepare for.

My point on this is that I think what New Zealand Rugby should do is free up the options for Steve Hansen. They should say anyone he wants he gets; they won't put rules in place to prevent that happening.

It is an interesting one and takes me back to the case with halfback Grahame Bachop in 1995. He had been playing rugby in Japan and the NZRU made a special dispensation for him to be included in the All Blacks.

If you look offshore now, you have Aaron Cruden and Lima Sopoaga; Dan Carter has recovered from injury, so do we just make an exception to the rules to say that if that ever does happen let's give ourselves the flexibility, let's not tie our hands behind our backs and say 'We can't do it'.

If Steve Hansen says he wants that guy, let's make sure he gets him.

I know former All Blacks coach John Hart has talked about Hayden Parker but at the moment the reality is that he can't be picked because he's not playing in New Zealand. If he is back playing for Otago by World Cup time - possibly.

Who might be the third five-eighth: Otere Black, Mitch Hunt or Marty Banks? That's something Steve Hansen will no doubt be working on. But there will be a utility-type player selected involving fullback also; that might be David Havili, Will Jordan or Jordie Barrett?

All that aside I just feel so sorry for McKenzie. There were articles written over the summer about how excited he was and how he wasn't relaxing because it was a World Cup year and that it was such a big opportunity.

In earlier columns I commented about the way he threw his body around and how I was concerned for him. It gives me no comfort now to say: "Sure enough, it was just a matter of time."

He's plays the game at speed and is so physical for a small man that I think injury was always just around the corner.

It has thrown up the debate about how the selection might look now. Clearly Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo'unga are light years ahead of who is New Zealand's No. 3 fly-half.

But if injury does strike either Barrett or Mo'unga, where would the All Blacks go next?

I can't see three first fives going to a World Cup anyway. But who is going to be that guy on the West Coast catching whitebait, a la Stephen Donald circa 2011, if anything does happen during the World Cup?

Another conversation going on out there is an interesting one regarding the Crusaders' name. We wouldn't be having this conversation if it wasn't in the wake of what's happened in Christchurch with the mosque massacres. It's certainly brought the debate to light, and a lot of people have reached for the history books to find out just exactly what the Crusaders were all about.

From my own perspective, I just look at the Crusaders; they have handled it with complete professionalism. That has been outstanding. That's probably a reflection of the whole outfit; the way the team have been performing on the field and just the management in behind and what they've done off the field because it is very easy to dismiss it.

And it's very easy to brush it off with an "ahh it's just a name, it's just a game, it's just a sport". But I think the kudos needs to go to the actual Crusaders management and the backroom staff, the CEO, the marketing team, the whole crew; they have handled the situation very well.

Whether they got the team naming wrong in the first place is questionable; no-one complained when they first named the team. Clearly Christchurch's social demographic has changed since 1996, too, so it's an interesting conversation.

Looking at the weekend, the Blues and Chiefs both had a bit of a stutter. In saying that, you only have to go back to the Crusaders - they don't drop their standards. That's All Black level as well, you can't have one week on and one week off. You've got to find that level of consistency.

They should be looking at the South Island teams and just what is the difference and, again, it is that word consistency. It's really crucial and I think even the Highlanders who, although they had been losing, it was only ever by a few points. They were always in the hunt, they were always there at the last minute. That's something the other teams need to learn from.

The other topic dominating discussion is Israel Folau and his social media comments. It just seems to be dragging on and on and on. And we're not going to get a decision until the first week in May, when he will front a Code of Conduct hearing.

The one thing about his thoughts and beliefs is that you don't go out and attack people whether you believe you are right or you are wrong. If a fat person's walking down the road I don't go out and say: "Hey, you're fat!" You don't have to take that level of aggression into social media and attack people.

It's not the Christian way, nor the way of any group in society. Whatever way you look at it, it is impolite. If he's going to be stubborn and say he stands by his beliefs, well, that's his choice. But at the end of the day there are other methods to express your religious sentiments.