Big money luring young rugby players away

BEN STANLEY
Last updated 05:00 19/05/2013
Dave Rennie
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CONCERNS OVER DEPTH: Chiefs coach Dave Rennie.

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Chiefs coach Dave Rennie believes that the hope of an All Blacks jersey is no longer enough to keep younger rugby players in New Zealand.

Rennie, whose side defeated the Hurricanes 17-12 in Wellington on Friday, said the Chiefs have battled over the last week to find a midfield replacement for the injured Richard Kahui.

The player drain away from New Zealand is becoming a bigger and bigger problem, he believes. The Chiefs have recruited Waikato centre Save Tokula and Hawke's Bay first-five Dan Waenga - though both head offshore at the end of 2013, with contracts in France.

Rennie told RadioSport yesterday that the Chiefs situation is an example for what is happening in the rest of rugby in this country: that second-tier players, without international experience can, and will, take big money overseas contracts.

"In the past, the lure of the black jersey was a really big thing for players, and if they became an All Black and then went overseas later in their career, they could command pretty big money," Rennie said.

"There's a lot of guys who go now, who know they can get big money without being an All Black. There's a massive amount of Kiwis playing rugby overseas at the moment.

"That's what rugby is for a lot of guys now. They've got a short window and they've got to make the money when they can.

"If they can't make it here in New Zealand, they've got to look overseas."

The signing of New Zealand Under-20s flanker Jake Heenan by Irish giants Connacht last week has further put the microscope on the situation - with European clubs prepared now to target the best young talent here before they play Super or provincial rugby.

Rennie said the loss of players like Heenan, and other second tier players, could really hurt New Zealand rugby in years to come.

"A few years back, Wayne Smith was talking about this with the Crusaders," he said. "When he got a few injuries he'd go to the draft and he'd grab guys like Tony Marsh and Norm Berryman.

"Now we're looking at some guys who have barely played NPC. We do a lot of our scouting at college level. You get the best kids coming out to make sure they're coming into our area, and so on.

"There's a massive amount of quality players, young guys, who are being snapped up already. I reckon it's a concern.

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"If we bury our heads in the sand around that, we may find in a few years' time, it will start to really affect our footy at the top level."

- Sunday News

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