Joe Rokocoko rejects Toulon millions

BY DAVID LONG
Last updated 05:00 18/07/2010

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Joe Rokocoko has turned down a deal that would have set him up for life, but he could still be just a few months away from heading overseas.

The All Blacks wing, who missed last night's test against the Springboks because of a hamstring strain, had been the No.1 target of Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal – it's believed that Rokocoko was offered a four-year deal worth a cool $1 million a season to move to the south of France.

But, unlike Carl Hayman, Rokocoko put the black jersey ahead of financial gain and chose to remain in New Zealand for the chance of playing in a world cup-winning side.

However, the clock is ticking for a new deal to be done with the NZRU for him to remain in New Zealand beyond his current contract, which runs out in November.

Rokocoko confirmed that Toulon (which signed fellow Blues wing Rudi Wulf instead) were after him, but his priority right now is to play more tests.

"That's the commitment I've set," Rokocoko said. "I've committed for another four to five months to the NZRU and that's what it says in my contract and this is my sole focus.

"There are going to be things like that which pop in and out from overseas, especially with clubs knowing players might be quite vulnerable right now, even more so with players who miss out on playing for their international team.

"I'm standing firm on my decision to try to make this team again.

"I'm pretty disappointed I'm not playing this weekend as well because I want to make sure my spot is still in this team." Although the chance to play for Toulon has gone, there are plenty more fish in the sea and any decision to stay in New Zealand, or go overseas, will depend on what the coaches think of his playing ability.

When asked if he expected to re-sign with the NZRU, Rokocoko said: "It all depends on whether they want me, that's the whole thing at the moment.

"I'm just waiting on the NZRU and seeing what they want to do, it's all in their hands, really.

"I'm with the Essentially Group and they're going through that process at the moment.

"They're here in Wellington this week so I guess over the next few days I'll have an indication on where they see me at the moment."

Meanwhile, Sunday News reports today that while Tana Umaga has ruled himself out of the battle for the assistant coach's job at the Blues, Jamie Joseph and Simon Culhane are poised to take the helm at the Highlanders.

Joseph could be named head coach as early as next week with Culhane appointed as his assistant. The newspaper said it is still unknown what, if any, role Steve Hansen will have in the Highlanders next year, although the All Blacks' coaches are keen on working closer with the franchises. The Highlanders are facing pressure to stop star players Adam Thomson and Israel Dagg jumping ship to the Crusaders next season and the coaching appointments will undoubtedly affect their decision.

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If Joseph and Culhane do get the Highlanders jobs, their exits from their respective provincial teams will have to managed.

It shouldn't be much of a problem for Culhane at Southland because David Henderson could step up from co-coach to head coach towards the end of the season. Any transition at Wellington from Joseph to Andre Bell will have to be timed right.

The NZRU recently announced it was readvertising the Blues position held this year by Shane Howarth but, despite some seeing it as the perfect move for Umaga to progress his coaching pathway, the former All Blacks captain is not interested.

"At this stage, this is my lot," Umaga said of his current Counties deal.

He will be a player and assistant coach there this season.

- Sunday Star Times

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