Owen Franks next on the NZRU contract list

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 04/02/2014
franks
TRIED AND TESTED: Owen Franks.

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With Owen Franks' contract about to expire, his name should be stencilled in high-viz paint on the New Zealand Rugby Union's office wall.

The tighthead prop, who has had 54 tests since 2009, will be a free-agent after the Super Rugby season and while next year's World Cup remains a major goal for him, he also has a desire to play in France.

Even with the emergence of Charlie Faumuina as a test tighthead, along with older brother Ben Frank's ability to play both sides of the scrum, the NZRU should still renew Owen's contract.

As seen with Rene Ranger last year, when the All Blacks centre joined Montpellier on a three-year deal worth around $600,000 a season, French clubs continue to be a major attraction for New Zealand players.

Crusaders wing Zac Guildford recently signed for French club Clermont after former All Blacks wing Sitiveni Sivivatu transferred to Castres for a sum purported to eclipse the Ranger offer.

"It's a goal, yeah. Definitely I do [think about playing overseas]," Franks said. "I love watching French rugby and the Heineken Cup and would like to do something like that one day.

"I have a goal in my mind to go through to the next World Cup but in saying that I'm not going to forgo a good contract."

Last year the NZRU and All Blacks coach Steve Hansen showed they were already planning beyond the World Cup by locking in No. 8 Kieran Read, lock Sam Whitelock and utility back Ben Smith until the British and Irish and Lions tour in 2017.

Franks, who made his Crusaders debut in 2009, noted last year that one of the props he enjoyed watching was veteran French tighthead Nicolas Mas who recently transferred to Montpellier.

At 26 Franks, providing he doesn't suffer major injuries, could potentially stretch his career well into his 30s. like to remind him not to rush overseas at the expense of his international career.

While it seems unlikely Franks, who married long-time partner Emma at the Clearwater Resort in Christchurch last month, would depart New Zealand before the World Cup in England the NZRU should still not drag their heels in their negotiations.

The only likelihood of a sabbatical would probably be after the World Cup, which rules out any chance of Franks missing next year's Super Rugby season.

Meanwhile, older brother Ben was best man at Owen's wedding while Scott Hansen, who has maintained a close friendship with the pair since their days at the Linwood club, was a groomsman.

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"Emma's family did a lot of planning and it turned out to be an awesome day, it was pretty cool," Franks noted.

"We had our honeymoon in Rarotonga and then it was back home for rugby training."

Last weekend the Motueka-born Franks played 30 minutes in an inter-squad game in Christchurch.

He would probably get more time in Friday evening's pre-season match against the Highlanders in Motueka.

- The Press

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