Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Super Rugby exodus grows

As players head overseas, franchises are looking at a reduced talent pool next year

Andy Ellis is expected to confirm he'll be heading overseas to play. Photo / Getty Images
Andy Ellis is expected to confirm he'll be heading overseas to play. Photo / Getty Images

The trickle is becoming a surge as Super 15 players desert their New Zealand franchises for the rewards of Japan and Europe.

As the All Black selectors unveiled their extended training group for the June internationals with England, the discards firmed up plans for strong overseas deals before the next World Cup.

A dozen players have confirmed they will not play Super Rugby next year while others like Tanerau Latimer and Andy Ellis are expected to reveal they are also joining the exodus.

Those on the march are Andre Taylor, Mils Muliaina, Zac Guildford, Jackson Willison, Bundee Aki, Alipati Leuia, Tyler Bleyendaal, Chris Noakes, Jack Lam, Jarrad Hoeata, Tom McCartney and now Corey Flynn, who tweeted yesterday that he was off to Toulouse.

Benji Marshall as left already while there are growing noises about the impending departures of Latimer, Ellis, Ben Tameifuna and Gareth Anscombe.

This is the best time for players to cash in on their talent if, like Bleyendaal, they feel there is no chance of making the All Blacks with Daniel Carter, Colin Slade, Tom Taylor ahead of him as five-eighths at the Crusaders and others around the country rated higher too.

Bleyendaal captained the New Zealand under-20 side to the world title in 2010 and has played more than 20 games for the Crusaders but his way to the top in New Zealand is blocked by many rivals.

He is heading to Munster while another Irish club, Connacht, have picked up Muliaina, Aki and McCartney.

The New Zealand Rugby Union has been keen to trumpet the signatures of most of its wider All Black group who are committed to the next World Cup season.

That group is Richie McCaw, Israel Dagg, Charles Piutau, Cory Jane, Ben Smith, Julian Savea, Sonny Bill Williams, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Daniel Carter, Colin Slade, Ma'a Nonu, Francis Saili, Kieran Read, Sam Whitelock, Dane Coles, Liam Messam, Sam Cane, Steven Luatua, Jerome Kaino, Luke Romano, Keven Mealamu, Ben Franks, Wyatt Crockett, Ben Afeaki, Brodie Retallick, Jeremy Thrush and Luke Whitelock.

That is a hefty pile of talent and the core of the All Blacks who will defend their global crown next year.

Their Super 15 teams will need them to show their class during that series but the All Black coaches will also be asking coaches to monitor players' workload and arrange some down time. That will put more emphasis on the quality of the remaining players across the five New Zealand sides. That pressure will increase in 2016 if the proposed tournament expansion occurs.

Players who qualify for Australia like Mike Harris and Toby Smith will come under more heat to transfer their allegiance across the Ditch.

Others starting off in the ITM Cup will be targeted with a range of incentives to join transtasman Super 15 sides across the Ditch and those not wanted here like Jason Woodward, Scott Fuglistaller, Jayden Hayward, Alby Mathewson and William Whetton will also be offered deals. There will be others like Hadleigh Parkes, who was persuaded to link up last season with the Southern Kings in South Africa.

- NZ Herald

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