In a groundbreaking move, New Zealand Rugby has announced Harlequins as the first club it will form an official overseas relationship with.

The Herald revealed early last month plans to establish ties with foreign clubs in order to, among other things, facilitate sabbaticals.

The move comes at a time when NZR is under constant pressure to retain its players with salaries on the rise in Europe.

On Friday, NZR confirmed a 'cooperation agreement' with London-based Harlequins, one which will see the national body strategically link with the Premiership club on and off the field.


"This is new territory for New Zealand Rugby and this unique relationship will open some useful connections in that part of the world. With its strong ex-pat community, London is of key strategic importance to New Zealand Rugby, and when you factor in our shared relationship with adidas, this cooperation agreement is a very natural fit," NZR chief executive Steve Tew said.

"This alignment will create significant opportunities for both sides, with players, coaches and staff able to learn from different environments with different people, challenges and cultures."

The agreement will see NZR and Harlequins cooperate on a number of projects in relation to playing and coaching resources, team training and commercial leverage opportunities.

"The All Blacks are the bench mark of excellence for all teams, so to be able to align with them both on and off the pitch will be of significant benefit to the club," Harlequins chief executive David Ellis said.

Former All Blacks first five-eighth Nick Evans is among those on the Harlequins coaching staff while Sean Fitzpatrick is on the board. New Zealanders Francis Saili, Winston Stanley and Mat Luamanu are in the playing squad.