The Player Drain - it's a perennial topic that resurfaces every time there appears to be a mass exodus of players to the Northern Hemisphere, which usually coincides with a World Cup.

It's a valid discussion topic and one that I hope takes place in the halls of New Zealand Rugby as well. If they don't discuss it and believe totally in the all-powerful lure of the black jersey then they are shooting themselves in the foot and doing the sport here a disservice.

So far you'd have to say NZR's stoic stance has been commendable and, most importantly, hugely successful.

The power of the All Black jersey and the phenomenal depth of talent here has more than made up for the exodus. This should give our rugby bosses some comfort, but they shouldn't assume that the situation will remain thus forever more. They need to stay ahead of the game and discuss the situation each year.


Eventually they might have to modify their policy, like South Africa have done and Australia announced they would do this week, for the benefit of the All Blacks. They can't just brush off the Player Drain as a non-issue.

Playing overseas can have its advantages, and not just financially. It certainly did for me. You have to adapt to different styles and even more pertinently, you have to adapt your thinking.

The Northern hemisphere countries do not have players with the skillsets that New Zealanders do, so they have to play the game a different way to maximise their strengths and negate that of ours.

I discovered quickly that the ball I was being provided wasn't as clean or as quick as what I was used to. I couldn't call upon forwards that had the ball-handling skills to compare to the ones I had left behind.

That forced me to be more creative at the breakdown and call upon skills that had not been fully developed in New Zealand. It's not for me to judge whether I became a better player, but I definitely became a different one.

Yes, there are players who go overseas for a spell and come back and are not the same player, but there are also success stories. You'd have to say Jerome Kaino and Ma'a Nonu have benefited from a change of scenery, while Sonny Bill Williams changes codes and countries without any damage to his skillset.

It's not just players who benefit. Look at our top coaches. The likes of Graham Henry, Wayne Smith and Steve Hansen all had significant stints overseas.

All coached in the United Kingdom but none of them came back coaching a negative style, which is how we often view the brand of rugby played in the north.


South Africa will call on some European-based players this season, like Bakkies Botha and Bryan Habana, while the Wallabies have also taken a more pragmatic line with their most experienced players.

Should New Zealand do the same?

If you look at that XV I've chosen and compare it to what it would look like in 12 months' time, I could certainly pick a stronger team that could include the likes of Colin Slade, Dan Carter and Charles Piutau.

But when you think about it closely, guys like Rene Ranger, Carl Hayman, Richard Kahui and Nick Evans were quite crucial parts of the All Blacks plans when they made the decision to depart.

What happened? After the initial shock, New Zealand rugby sucked it up and handled it. Ranger, in particular, looked to getting to the peak of his powers, he left, they picked a guy called Ben Smith on the right wing and we don't talk about Ranger much anymore.

At the moment it's a faultless system of success and renewal.

But it might not always be so, which is why NZR must remain vigilant.

• Can you select a better overseas 15 than Marshall? Write your team into the comments section below and post