World-class pair Brodie Retallick and Julian Savea have become the first All Blacks to commit through to the 2019 Rugby World Cup in a major boost for New Zealand Rugby.
Lock Retallick and blockbusting winger Savea have reached terms to remain in New Zealand for four more years.
Several All Blacks and fringe Test players have signed offshore contracts beyond this year, triggering fresh concerns that New Zealand’s elite player stocks are dwindling.
New Zealand Rugby officials will hope the long-term retention of two of the world’s premier players will help convince others to stay.
Last November Retallick became the first lock to be crowned world player of the year, seeing off a list of nominees that included Savea.
Their careers have mirrored each other closely, having both shone at New Zealand age group level before making their Test debuts against Ireland at Auckland in 2012, the All Blacks’ first Test after their 2011 World Cup triumph.
Retallick, 23, has played 36 Tests, earning accolades for powerful running and deft ball skills, mixed with a lung-busting work rate.
Savea, 24, has scored 30 tries in 33 Tests, one of the most impressive ratios in Test history.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen last year said Savea’s speed and power compared favourably with that of former Test dynamo Jonah Lomu.
The announcement on Wednesday is nearly similar in scale to the joint signing of greats Richie McCaw and Dan Carter to four-year deals sealed early in 2011.
ALL BLACKS STAYING LONG-TERM
2019 – Julian Savea, Brodie Retallick
2018 – Jerome Kaino
2017 – Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Ben Smith, Malakai Fekitoa, Aaron Cruden, Kieran Read, Steven Luatua, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks, Charlie Faumuina
Charles Piutau (Ulster), Frank Halai (Wasps), Conrad Smith (Pau), Ma’a Nonu (Toulon), Francis Saili (Munster), Tom Taylor (Bayonne), Colin Slade (Pau), Dan Carter (Racing Metro), Jeremy Thrush (Gloucester), Ben Franks (London Irish)