Rugby great Sean Fitzpatrick says it’s a good thing that some of New Zealand’s finest are choosing to play abroad – both for the “phenomenal” money and experience.
And, as long as the All Blacks keep winning, he believes players will keep returning from overseas sojourns to seek the black jersey again.
Five eighth Colin Slade has this week joined the list of New Zealand’s players departing after the World Cup who still have plenty of rugby ahead of them, including the likes of Charles Piutau, Jeremy Thrush and Frank Halai.
Veteran All Black greats Dan Carter, Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith are also on the move.
“We’re going to have a clean out, we’re going to lose a lot of players after this World Cup, but that’s just the way it is now,” said Fitzpatrick ahead of the Laureus World Sports Awards in Shanghai.
“I’m not against players like Piutau going away at 23 years old – I think it’s a good thing.
“I think they should go and experience another lifestyle. Obviously the money, in terms of what they can earn in Europe, is just phenomenal now.
“Someone like Piutau, for example, you’ve got to say `Well, of course he’s going to go’.
“For us living in Europe, it’s great to see these young guys coming here.
“The quality of rugby in the UK, France, Ireland, is getting better and better because we’ve got a lot more foreigners coming in.”
Fitzpatrick said the Kiwis were “leaders” in trying to keep their best players at home, and allowing sabbaticals was a key part of that.
While they haven’t got the money to compete with overseas outfits, the “legacy of our jersey” was the most important factor.
“We need to keep winning,” he said.
“And as long as we keep winning, these guys will want to come back to New Zealand and play for the All Blacks.”