Kieran Read turned down a long-term contract extension and sabbatical option, but there are few fears the All Blacks No 8 will take his talents overseas at the end of next year.
Read's recent one-year deal sparked concern he was weighing up offshore options after a number of senior All Blacks committed their immediate futures to New Zealand rugby.
The Sunday Star-Times understands that, during protracted negotiations, the New Zealand Rugby Union placed various offers in front of Read, including an extension through to the World Cup in 2015.
In what is becoming an increasingly familiar scenario, "long-term leave options" granted to All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and Ma'a Nonu, were also used as an incentive for Read to sign an extended deal.
"It was more about where I wanted to be. I've got a family to look after - it's just the way it worked out that I only signed a one-year deal," a coy Read explained. "All going well, we'll see what happens next year."
Read's leadership is invaluable for the Crusaders and All Blacks and he appears to have shown the same nous off the field.
Rebuffing the NZRU may be an intelligent move from Read's savvy management in the modern climate.
The governing body's lucrative sponsorship deal with AIG is understood to have been a factor in his decision, and with future funds likely to be freed up for the All Blacks' heavy-hitters, Read could be a major beneficiary in his renewed contract next year.
"In today's world sometimes a one-year deal is best for the player because he will back himself to play well, and he will have a stronger bargaining point next time," All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said.
"I don't think Kieran is thinking at all about leaving."
All Blacks management consider Read a future captain and he is likely to take the reins from McCaw against Italy in Rome next weekend, and again when the openside flanker takes six months off next year.
The NZRU's preference was to secure the 27-year-old's services for at least the next two years and they have essentially been forced back to square one.
"We will almost immediately start to negotiate with him for a bit longer," NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said. "His people would prefer to do a one-year deal and come back to the table early in the New Year. We will be ready and welcoming.
"We certainly don't believe there is any danger of him going overseas, but he's only committed for one-year so he's a free agent come the end of 2013. There are no immediate alarm bells."
Tew confirmed Read would be granted "a decent break" in his next contract.
The common trend of New Zealand's top-tier players being offered sabbaticals could soon be a major issue and source of frustration for Super Rugby coaches, who may be without their best talent on a regular basis.
"For our long service players we are flexible about them taking long-term leave, a decent break at some point," Tew said. "Realistically, if we are going to get Kieran through to 2015 and beyond there will have to be some concessions in his playing schedule. That will be individually tailored as they all have. We've done it with Richie, Dan, Ma'a and there will be others."
Tew also warned Read he could be left out of pocket by the keeping his options open.
"We are comfortable with where Reado is. He's got a big future in New Zealand rugby. I'm not going to be picking the next All Blacks captain but he's the favoured option, hopefully that comes to pass. But like all of these things, if you sign a one-year deal and you get a long-term injury, you don't have the same security."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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