Departing All Black Ngani Laumape has taken some parting jabs at New Zealand Rugby, revealing his decision to leave for France was made easy thanks to the pay cut he was offered to stay here.
Laumape has been named to start his last game as a Hurricane after six years with the Wellington franchise this Friday against the Reds before he heads overseas to join Stade Francais.
The 28-year-old wasn’t shy talking about his exit this afternoon, saying he wasn’t thinking about a return to a New Zealand once his three-year deal in France is finished either.
“[The decision to leave] wasn’t hard when I was offered a contract [by NZ Rugby] that was asking me to take less income,” Laumape said.
“Once that came into perspective I had to make the best decision for me and my family and my kids.”
Laumape admitted he was surprised NZR didn’t at least match the current salary he was on.
“Yeah, pretty disappointing,” he said.
“I think I offer something in the midfield that no other midfielder can offer in New Zealand.
“At the end of the day it’s a business - they did what they had to do and I have to do what’s best for me and my family and my kids.
“There’s no hard feelings. I understand it is what it is.”
Laumape has struggled to earn a permanent spot in the All Blacks’ midfield since switching from rugby league with the Warriors in 2016, earning just 15 Test caps since then, eight of which were off the bench.
That struggle culminated in 2019 when Laumape missed out on the All Blacks’ Rugby World Cup squad to four others despite consistent performances with the Hurricanes across multiple seasons where he built a reputation as a tackle-breaking machine.
Laumape said he hasn’t given much thought to his future after things wrap up on Saturday.
“I’m not going to think about coming back. I’m going there and all I’m thinking is to finish my career overseas and enjoy what it has to offer for me and my family and my kids.
“I just want to be happy again playing footy. The last couple of years I’ve always loved being in the Hurricanes environment and I’ve always thrived here.
“It’s about going there and having fun. I don’t have to worry about outside noise — just playing good for the club and hopefully my kids can cherish the moment.”
Laumape will start alongside Billy Proctor in the midfield in a line-up coach Jason Holland has tweaked since their shock 12-10 loss to the Brumbies.
Hooker Asafo Aumua returns in No 2 after a week out with concussion, with fellow All Black Dane Coles on the bench and captain Ardie Savea starting again at No 8.
The Hurricanes take on the Reds in Wellington at 7pm on Friday.
Hurricanes: Jordie Barrett, Julian Savea, Billy Proctor, Ngani Laumape, Wes Goosen, Ruben Love, Cam Roigard, Ardie Savea (captain), Du’Plessis Kirifi, Reed Prinsep, Scott Scrafton, James Blackwell, Tyrel Lomax, Asafo Aumua, Xavier Numia.
Reserves: Dane Coles, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Ben May, Liam Mitchell, Devan Flanders, Luke Campbell, Danny Toala, Salesi Rayasi.