All Blacks will be sent to Japan to avoid English clubs’ clutches
Hands off our All Blacks! Kiwi rugby stars will be sent to Japan in bid to avoid English clubs’ clutches
- New Zealand are battling to prevent an exodus of players to France and England
- Beauden Barrett is likely to benefit from a lucrative stint in the Far East
- Brodie Retallick and Rieko Ioane may be allowed to join Japanese teams
- Charles Piutau was lured to Bristol for a salary reportedly worth £1m per year
New Zealand are considering the radical step of releasing three of their superstars for two-year sabbaticals in Japan, in an attempt to fight off a growing financial threat to their global supremacy.
Fly-half Beauden Barrett — the reigning World Player of the Year — is one of those likely to benefit from a lucrative stint in the Far East.
Sportsmail understands that lock Brodie Retallick and rookie try-scoring phenomenon Rieko Ioane are the other front-line players who may be allowed to join Japanese teams in order to keep them away from Europe.
All Blacks No 10 Beauden Barrett is among those likely to benefit from a lucrative stint in Japan
New Zealand are considering radical step of releasing three stars for two-year sabbaticals
The New Zealand Rugby Union are battling to prevent a damaging exodus of their leading men to French and English clubs. What was once a pre-retirement option has turned into a career move for Kiwis in their prime —which is why the NZRU are having to take emergency steps in an attempt to protect the All Blacks’ treasured status as the best in the business.
The gulf in monetary clout between north and south is biting ever harder. Earlier this season, former New Zealand playmaker Lima Sopoaga, now at Wasps, claimed that more All Blacks in their 20s are likely to defect as awareness grows about their earning power.
One player in that category is Charles Piutau, 27, who was lured to Bristol — after stints at Wasps and Ulster — for a salary reportedly worth £1million per year.
Star duo Brodie Retallick and Rieko Ioane (pictured) may be allowed to join Japanese teams
Sopoaga’s point was that the fabled black jersey itself ‘is not enough for a better life’. This appears to be dawning on increasing numbers of New Zealand players willing to sacrifice their Test career in return for a fortune overseas.
Toulon are reportedly closing in on deals for All Black lock Sam Whitelock and wing Nehe Milner-Skudder, while captain Kieran Read has confirmed that he will move abroad after next year’s World Cup.
That is of less concern to the NZRU as Read is 33. But Barrett is 27, as is Retallick, while Ioane is an international novice of 21. Allowing this trio to spend time in Japan is a safer bet for the Kiwi authorities than watching them commit to the blood-and-thunder intensity of elite European club rugby.
It also fits in with increasing NZRU financial and sponsorship ties with rugby and government bodies in both Japan and China.
Charles Piutau was lured to Bristol for a salary reportedly worth £1million per year
What remains unclear is whether the All Blacks will relax their policy of only picking home-based players for Test rugby. Last week, flanker Matt Todd was called up for national service despite being on a short-term sabbatical with the Panasonic Wild Knights in Japan.
If that selection serves as a precedent, coach Steve Hansen may yet be able to pick Barrett, Retallick and Ioane if, or when, they go to Japan. In the short-term, that keeps New Zealand strong, but it may accelerate an exodus once players sense that the strict selection policy has been compromised.
Despite the commercial allure of the All Blacks brand, the NZRU lack financial clout. They do not own their own stadium and, in a relatively small economy, gate receipts are modest.
In contrast, the RFU will earn in excess of £10m from Saturday’s England v New Zealand match.
Hansen jokingly urged the union here to split the takings with their Kiwi counterparts, but that won’t happen. Two years ago the then RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie bluntly urged the cash-strapped SANZAR unions to ‘build a bigger stadium’ if they want to enhance profits.
Source: Read Full Article