Rugby: Aussies No 1 in poaching game

By Gregor Paul

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If there is any finger pointing to be done over the contentious issue of player poaching, Australia should stand as the guilty party rather than New Zealand.

The four Super 14 sides across the Tasman contain 31 players who were not born in Australia - almost twice as many as New Zealand's franchises, who can only muster 17 players between them not born here.

And far from being the perpetrator in player poaching as New Zealand has recently been accused, this country is very much the victim.

NZRU manager of professional rugby, Neil Sorensen, said: "Everyone talks about us flogging players from the Pacific Islands but it would be quite interesting to present the statistics and see that we are actually under pressure.

"We have noticed that there has been more interest from Australia in the last six to 12 months particularly.

"That probably shouldn't be a surprise given their player stocks and also with Robbie Deans and David Nucifora over there - guys who coached over here for a long time.

"We are concerned and Steve Tew [NZRU chief executive] has let his feelings be known to John O'Neill [Australian Rugby Union chief executive] that we are not happy about it but at the same time it is an open market."

Of the 30 players not born in Australia, 18 were in fact born in New Zealand. Included in that list of 18 are Waratahs lock Dean Mumm, Reds first five Quade Cooper and wing Digby Ioane who are all recent Wallabies. Australia have also done well recruiting outside New Zealand with Fijian-born Lote Tuqiri, South African-born Clyde Rathbone, Indonesian-born Guy Shepherdson, Saudi Arabian-born Stephen Moore, Canadian-born Matt Dunning, English-born

Cameron Shepherd and Zimbabwean-born David Pocock also representing the Wallabies in recent seasons.

The Reds and Force, who both have nine, are the two provinces with the greatest number of overseas players on their books.

The former has eight New Zealand-born players and assistant coach Damon Emtage, as well as the Papua New Guinean-born Will Genia, while the Force have five New Zealand-born players and coach John Mitchell, Shepherd, Pocock, South African-born Dane Haylett-Petty and Papua New Guinean-born Scott Daruda. The Brumbies have eight players born outside Australia.

In comparison, the Blues, always seen as the most multicultural and ethnically diverse of the New Zealand sides, have just five players not born in New Zealand. Justin Collins, Benson Stanley and Tevita Mailau were all born in Australia, Jerome Kaino in American Samoa and Joe Rokocoko in Fiji.

The Chiefs and Hurricanes each have four born outside New Zealand, the Highlanders two and the Crusaders one.

The breakdown of the 17 players not born in New Zealand is this - seven were born in Samoa, four in Australia, three in Tonga, two in Fiji and one in American Samoa.

Of those 17, nine have become All Blacks - Kaino, Rokocoko, Isaia Toeava, Mils Muliaina, Sosene Anesi, Sione Lauaki, Ben Franks, John Schwalger and Rodney So'oialo.

- Herald on Sunday

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