It's becoming clear now – the heavily-trodden path to European clubs and fat cheques is likely to be far less travelled by many All Blacks of the future.
There are two main reasons – the recent Premiership Rugby review of the salary cap in English club rugby and the continuing sense of disappointment many club owners feel when they pay megabucks for an All Black only to find (surprise, surprise) that said All Black's talent has not translated well into a northern hemisphere club career.
Lord Myners' recent review of the salary cap was sparked by Saracens' breaches, which made a mockery of the previous season. Myners called for clubs breaching the cap to have titles stripped (the rules said Saracens couldn't be) and pointed the bone at the marquee player system, which allows two players to sit outside the salary cap.
He said: "It's clear to me, and to many others within the clubs, that the marquee-players exemption completely cut across the objectives of equality and competition and created unhelpful inflationary pressure on wages. The time is ripe for a review of their continued usefulness."
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Damn straight. From the 2012-13 season, clubs were permitted one marquee player; a second was allowed from 2015-16. Myners' report shows there were only five players in the Premiership who cost their club at least £300,000 (about NZ$600,000) in 2013-2014. Now there are 99.
"It's also worth noting that seven of this season's 24 highest-remunerated players are not 'marquee'. The 24 players in this cohort cost their various clubs a total of £14m (NZ$29m) in 2019/20," he said.
Add to that the wish of many European rugby clubs to pare spending, with the Covid-19 crisis causing major financial bloodletting across the northern hemisphere rugby scene; it is clear that many – maybe even most – of the big payday deals for All Blacks will soon be a thing of the past.
We also have to factor in the French. They may be beginning to think twice about the value of expensive imports after this year's Six Nations revealed a resurgent France team based on young talent, with only one player over 30 in the squad.
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For many years now, the French have been criticised for allowing too many imports, stifling homegrown young talent. Now that Fabien Galthie's youthful side is turning heads internationally, French club rugby may also see merit in a new direction – though the clubs' care and concern for international rugby is, well, lacking.
The clubs still hold the whip hand in French rugby, populated by headstrong owners – men like the volatile Mourad Boudjellal of Toulon who damned Julian Savea with a nasty outburst after the former All Black winger, now looking to return home, failed to live up to expectations.
Then there are players like Aaron Cruden – a gifted player with undoubted talents who didn't make it in France (a string of injuries didn't help) but returned home and instantly showed international class for the Chiefs.
There have been more than a few instances of this kind of disappointment, perhaps voiced most succinctly by the owner of Montpellier, Mohed Altrad, who said of Cruden: "We hoped for something else."
Savea, Lima Sopoaga, Ma'a Nonu, Piri Weepu, Stephen Donald and even the great Dan Carter (towards the end of his Racing 92 career) all copped criticism from those expecting them to be world-beaters all over again. That said, players like Charles Piutau, Nick Evans and Carl Hayman earned universal approval.
However, no one in their right mind would advocate that All Blacks close to the end of their careers will automatically perform to their maximum in the European club cauldron. How could they?
Even if the player concerned is conscientious and committed, he's been playing for the No. 1 team in the world in recent times. There's a big difference between that and turning out for a French club – and it would be remarkable if players' psyches did not reflect that.
Most All Blacks clutching their business class tickets to Europe say it's not just about the money, it's about "the experience" – and it probably feels a bit like a holiday until the 28 games they have to play before even getting to the finals kicks in and grinds them down.
So things seem set to change. Any objective look at the fortunes of New Zealand rugby players in Europe would put Piutau, Hayman and Evans near the top of the class. They had a common thread – all went to Europe early in their All Black careers. Hayman and Evans were 28, Piutau 24.
That could be the key now for European clubs. Maybe, instead of just paying big money to big names with a big flourish, they will do their due diligence properly and select players yet to be All Blacks.
After all, if you want the name of perhaps the most valuable New Zealand import to European rugby, it would probably be Jimmy Gopperth – the Hurricanes and Blues first five who travelled north when he was 26 and has played leading roles for Newcastle, Leinster and now Wasps, scoring over 1800 points, regularly being the league's top points scorer and winning armfuls of awards.
And he was never an All Black.