Gregor Paul 's Opinion

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul: Leavers won't be missed

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Tyler Bleyendaal missed about a million kicks in the opening match of this season and hasn't been seen since. Photo / Getty Images
Tyler Bleyendaal missed about a million kicks in the opening match of this season and hasn't been seen since. Photo / Getty Images

At the risk of being disrespectful to those who have announced their plans to set sail for pastures new, New Zealand rugby is not in the middle of a damaging player exodus.

No one will really notice when about half of those who are leaving actually leave.

It's perhaps unduly kind to point out that Tyler Bleyendaal, who is off to Munster, missed about a million kicks in the opening match of this season and hasn't been seen since.

Chris Noakes won't leave the Blues in chaos when he heads to England and, who would know, perhaps Zac Guildford has already shifted to Clermont.

The fear at the moment is New Zealand is going to lose too many middle-tier players — those who have three to five years of Super Rugby experience.

These men are supposedly tough to replace and more valuable than anyone realises. But that argument is hard to accept. Players who are more valuable than anyone realises are like jokes that have to be explained.

The volume of players opting to leave is comparatively high but New Zealand rugby is going to cope just fine next year without them. The three toughest to replace will be Alipati Leiua, Jack Lam and Faifili Levave. They have been outstanding for the Hurricanes, a huge factor behind the franchise's revival.

But the overall picture will change if Tanerau Latimer, Ben Tameifuna and Gareth Anscombe take offshore deals after this campaign. They are players whose loss would be felt but the likelihood of all three leaving is small. Tameifuna has signalled he wants to stay and Anscombe may chose to do the same. And that's how it is at the moment — the game here doesn't lose many it wants to keep.

- Herald on Sunday

Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer. He has written several books on rugby including the Reign of King Henry, Black Obsession and For the Love of the Game.

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