The next retention battle has already begun for New Zealand Rugby, with TJ Perenara, Malakai Fekitoa and Ryan Crotty the three players deemed highest priority to keep.

All three come off contract this year and the All Blacks coaches want them to stay in New Zealand through to the next World Cup. All three have been told they are wanted, but all three have supposedly been targeted by overseas clubs, too.

Speculation has arisen in the UK that Bristol, the club for whom Steven Luatua recently signed, are lining up bids for Perenara and Crotty. Fekitoa has confirmed that he is uncertain about where his future lies. Speaking ahead of winning his 50th Super Rugby cap, he said: "I don't know what's going to pop up after this. I would love to stay or maybe look at elsewhere. I just have to see what's best for me and my career, and also my family."

When Ben Smith, Israel Dagg and Aaron Cruden were being targeted by overseas clubs at the end of last year, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said he would be happy if two of the three stayed. He got his wish and now, a few months on, he'd once again be quite happy to settle for two from three.


In this scenario his banker, or as close to a banker as he can hope for, is Perenara. The 25-year-old is only touching the surface in regard to how good he could be and having finished the season as the All Blacks number one halfback, Perenara has plenty of motivation to stay.

He has become a vital part of the national team. Even should Smith recover his form and No 9 jersey, Perenara will still be required to play plenty of minutes for the All Blacks. Halfback is no longer an 80-minute role for one man. It's a two-man job given the aerobic demands and one way or another, over the next few years, the potential is there for Perenara to play a meaningful role.

Source: All Blacks

If he walked away now, and with Tawera Kerr-Barlow also being hunted by overseas clubs, the All Blacks would be in a little bit of strife - certainly not quite the same team.

All of this gives Perenara ample leverage and it is believed that New Zealand Rugby has put a significant deal in front of him and he is on course to sign it.

The picture is less clear with Fekitoa. He's not a banker judging by his recent comments and it is easy enough to see why. Competition for midfield places in the All Blacks is intense and having started last year as the first-choice centre, he spent long periods of the year struggling for his best form.

As he battled to be at his best, Anton Lienert-Brown emerged almost from nowhere, announcing himself as a player with tremendous qualities.

George Moala also rejuvenated himself into a powerful, direct centre and now 19-year-old Rieko Ioane is stating his case to be considered more as a midfielder as opposed to a wing.

Fekitoa faces considerable competition for not only a starting berth, but a place in the squad and he'll have to determine how hard he wants to fight.


Against that is the financial lure of heading overseas. As one of 15 children, Fekitoa would dearly love to put more money on the table and there's no doubt he'd be better paid if he heads to Europe. Hansen would love him to stay but can't be confident at this point.

Crotty is another wing decision as he's in much the same boat as Fekitoa - competing in a crowded field and despite having matured into one of the most reliable and accurate test performers with the All Blacks, he also knows that Sonny Bill Williams will return to full fitness this year and has signed on until 2019.