New Zealand Rugby Players Association boss Rob Nichol believes that his country should be wary of the risk of losing so many players to rich oversees clubs.
A host of New Zealand qualified and international All Blacks will be leaving to play for clubs in Europe after the Rugby World Cup, with Colin Slade the most recent to announce his intention to join newly promoted French club Pau.
And Nichol believes teams in New Zealand are unable to compete financially with the sums of money on offer in the northern hemisphere.
He said: “We are so far behind the eight ball in terms of the money we can offer real quality players. We just can’t compete on a financial footing alone.
“I have seen some of the offers that are around and people say ‘wow, I can’t believe it’. I more than believe it and there is more than that available. That’s how scary it is.
“The rugby status in France is even rivalling football now. When you go up there and see where the status of rugby is at – it is lauded.”
Recently Ben Franks, Frank Halai, Luke Braid, Andre Taylor, Tom Taylor, Tyler Bleyendaal, Willi Heinz, Brendan O’Connor, Bryce Heem and Bundee Aki have joined All Black stars like Dan Carter, Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith in jumping at the chance to sign for wealthy offshore clubs.
It is a worry for New Zealand Rugby and Nichol shares their concerns. The lucrative broadcasting deal recently brokered in France, wealthy club owners in Britain and the fact English Premiership clubs can buy two marquee players outside the salary cap is having an impact.
NZ Rugby’s current revenue-sharing agreement with their players sits at around 37 per cent. The players’ slice of that should increase when Sanzar complete their new broadcasting deal, which is expected to increase around 50 per cent a season over the next five years, and the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour will also rake in some significant income.
That, agrees Nichol, will increase players’ earnings but he warns the bigger picture still presents an overwhelming case in favour of the raiders from foreign clubs.