European 'player drain' is nothing for NZ rugby to fear

For fans of New Zealand rugby, the merry-go-round of which players will stay and who will leave for overseas clubs has again surfaced it's ugly head.

In recent weeks the likes of Ben Smith, Israel Dagg and Aaron Cruden are among those to have been linked with mega-money deals which New Zealand sides just can't offer.

This comes barely 12 months after the losses of Dan Carter, Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith left our shores for the bright lights of Europe too.

It's not just after World Cup's either, with Carl Hayman, Rene Ranger and Charles Piutau cutting their international careers short in order to secure their own financial futures.

Even with 2017 set to be one of the biggest years for New Zealand rugby in recent time, the lure of the Euro in particular may be too hard for players here to turn down.

As it stands, only prop Charlie Faumuina has signed an overseas deal, but make no mistake, there will be many more to come over the next few months.

However, it can be argued that the loss of key players may not actually be the death of rugby in this country that it was once feared to be.

After the 2011 World Cup, the likes of Piri Weepu and Ali Williams were among those to turn their back on the black jersey and take the money on offer overseas, only to be replaced by Brodie Retallick and Aaron Smith just months later.

The ABs coach says the pair showed a great deal of potential after appearing more than what he had originally thought they would during the four Tests. Source: 1 NEWS

Even after the 2015 World Cup, Carter was replaced by Beauden Barrett, Nonu replaced by Ryan Crotty and Smith by Anton Lienert-Brown, all who've taken the All Blacks to a new level in 2016.

Simply put, the players that leave set the standard for the new generation to come through, and more often than not, the new bunch usually end up bettering their predecessors.

While the likes of Ben Smith, Dagg and Cruden would be huge losses, there are players in New Zealand more than able to step up and fill whatever void is left behind.

One reassuring feat though, is that players are now in a position to actually turn down these huge overseas offers, with Owen Franks committing through to the 2019 World Cup, while skipper Kieran Read is expected to do the same.

The All Blacks coach had a big job of rebuilding his side after the 2015 World Cup, but came away with a near perfect record this year. Source: 1 NEWS

Let's be clear, players are under no obligation to remain in New Zealand for their whole careers, in no other profession are you expected to turn down large sums of money as and when they become available, yet sport is perceived differently for some reason.

A move to a European club usually amounts to more pay for less work, something most of us wouldn't even think twice about. 

Even so, this latest so called "player drain" is no cause for alarm among rugby supporters here at home.

New Zealand always has, and always will have strong stocks when it comes to rugby.

While good players will leave, no one is irreplaceable, especially for a team such as the All Blacks.

So while nations like Australia and South Africa may be hampered by these huge overseas contracts on offer, here in New Zealand we don't in reality have anything to fear.

Ben Smith of New Zealand is tackled by Michael Hooper of Australia. Source: Photosport