Top Wallabies may not feature in Super Rugby next season. Photo: Toru Hanai/Reuters

SYDNEY – Australia plan to rest key players during next year's Super Rugby season in a bid to keep them fresh and injury-free for the World Cup in Japan.

The move is based on a New Zealand programme that ensures top players are monitored and given time off, including missing Super Rugby games.

Fox Sports Australia reported that an agreement in principle had been reached between Rugby Australia and the country's four Super Rugby franchises.

"What we've committed to is developing individual plans for our top players," Rugby Australia's high performance manager Ben Whitaker told the broadcaster.

"That will be a process formed between national team staff and the respective Super Rugby staff of the player, and that will be the full gamut of things around programming, load management, training and playing.

"I don't know if it will be exactly the same or copying New Zealand, but we will certainly be managing the individual players together and that will incorporate periods of rest."

Rugby Australia will be managing individual players together and that will incorporate periods of rest. Photo: Toru Hanai/Reuters
Rugby Australia will be managing individual players together and that will incorporate periods of rest. Photo: Toru Hanai/Reuters

It is a double-edged sword for Australia. 

Given their Super Rugby teams' dire recent record in the southern hemisphere competition, and poor crowds, the top names are needed more than ever.

But the Wallabies are also struggling with just three Test victories from 11 this season - their lowest win percentage for a calendar year since 1974.

New Zealand have made it mandatory for All Blacks to miss at least two regular season Super Rugby matches, although it is not clear yet if Australia will follow the same model or be more flexible.

"It's about giving the Wallabies the best preparation and performance plans," Whitaker said. "And the second part is to be really considerate and understanding of how that can still mean that Super Rugby teams can perform."

ACT Brumbies coach Dan McKellar confirmed discussions had taken place.

"I think in a World Cup year it makes sense that our players that are playing big minutes in Super Rugby, big minutes at Test level, that we're going to need to manage them well," he told Fox.

"We're having those conversations and discussions now and I think there's certainly some alignment there and some decisions will be made shortly."

Agence France-Presse (AFP)