If you believe the spin, there is nothing to worry about; it's the natural order of things - players come and players go and that's the end of the matter. New Zealand has a bottomless well of talent positively gushing out of the schoolboy system, and no shortage of players ready to commit long term to that ultimate dream of being an All Black. Ah, the Black Jersey! All hail the double-stitched glory!

It's a wonderful dream. Only problem is, very few will make it a reality. What most will do is wake up, and make up the numbers. And those players, the ones who haul themselves around the country and leave their guts on the franchise and provincial paddocks, are the greatest asset rugby in New Zealand has. Without them, the competitive advantage of the All Blacks is eroded. The All Blacks owe their outstanding record as much to the players who don't make the side, as to those who wear that famous jersey in the test arena. All Blacks perform because if they don't, someone else will.

So what happens when the "someone elses" aren't there?

Pressure is growing on New Zealand Rugby to retain its competitive advantage in this respect. The overseas signings of Charles Piutau and Francis Saili are the latest in a growing list that should be giving the governing body pause for thought. One official spoken to last week is adamant the escalating export of players is purely cyclical, but is that entirely true?


If this is the natural order of things then how to explain the very public gnashing of teeth at the announcement of current All Black Piutau's signing with Ulster? If this is the natural order of things, then how to explain the pre-emptive exit of current All Black Jeremy Thrush? If this is the natural order of things, then we must have some incredibly mature players ready to step into the professional ranks in place of Nasi Manu and Luke Braid and Tom Marshall and Tom Taylor and Frank Halai, to name a few.

All Black honours are the ultimate for an aspiring rugby player in this country and long may that be the case, but the organisational imperative that means the All Black brand trumps all else is simultaneously necessary and problematic: it provides an extraordinary incentive for players to perform at their peak, but fails to value the contribution of those who don't make the test grade.

There are countless players who receive none of the praise they are due in Super Rugby simply because they don't fit the selection matrix of the international coaches. What value do we place on their effort? What price their commitment to the New Zealand game?

And this is not all about money. Painting departing professional rugby players as cash-hungry mercenaries does them a disservice. Yes, there is good money on offer in Europe, but there is also more to life than a fistful of euros. It's a big world out there. There is also the attraction of a one-team season, something that for many players bests the current New Zealand arrangement of spending the year battling the logistics of combining franchise contracts with provincial duties.

The confidence New Zealand Rugby continues to show in the development of young players is admirable, and the academy efforts of the likes of the Chiefs and the Crusaders are proving to be effective counter-measures in the long-term battle against foreign raiders. But you can't manufacture experience, and you can't replace it by selecting some kid off the schoolboy shelf.

We need to value our experience. Instead we shrug our shoulders as it heads away, and roll out that well-worn line, "Ah, well, they were never going to be All Blacks, anyway." That line was bad enough for the fact that it missed the point. Now it's even worse for the fact that it's completely inaccurate.

There's been a lot of talk about loyalty in the wake of the Piutau signing, but if loyalty is to be demanded, it must surely be rewarded. And if the only reward for that loyalty is the possibility that maybe, someday, perhaps, you might be an All Black, then a rethink is required.

Lest we find the "natural order of things" is no longer the All Black dream, but the ultimate nightmare.