The notion of selecting All Blacks from overseas is an emotive, almost taboo, subject. But in the years to come, this policy will come under increasing pressure.

Many high-powered New Zealand Rugby figures remain steadfast that ditching the selection-from-within parameters would cause irreparable harm and only serve to open the floodgates.

Many who held similarly staunch views have since softened. One leading player agent and a former All Blacks coach are among them.

So, too, Neil Sorensen, NZR's general manager of rugby who finishes at the end of this month.


"We know we're on the precipice of major change. In the next five, 10 years the ability to retain our top talent… the market forces with the billionaire owners that will always be a challenge for us," Sorensen said in an extended interview with the Herald at the weekend.

"We've got to ask ourselves if we're going to be any different from Brazilian football. Brazil picks their players from all around the world and they come together to play in their colours. They do that at age-group level as well.

"We've got to ask ourselves why we would be any different when those sports are longer in the tooth when it comes to professionalism. We're just over 20 years young.

"If you look at the football model that's what happens with billionaire owners. It's a matter of still being able to unify and inspire a country through our All Blacks and national teams.

"That's why it's critical that our other national teams are nurtured and loved because the local rugby where we see these people walking down the road and having breakfast in local cafes, in time it might not be the superstar All Blacks."

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has previously advocated for selecting from Australia but, given the challenges around getting players released from overseas clubs, that's as far as he would be willing to go.

As it stands New Zealanders are more valuable to English and French clubs than local players. Come the international windows, when most other test players leave, New Zealanders remain to hold the fort. In this situation availability drives price and demand.

To have an immediate impact NZR would not have to follow through on selecting any more than one or two players from overseas. Merely saying they are going to may minimise interest from foreign clubs.

Charlie Ngatai playing for the Maori All Blacks. Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung /
Charlie Ngatai playing for the Maori All Blacks. Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung /

For now New Zealand's at risk stock is undoubtedly the middle tier; those on the fringe of the All Blacks and even those regular squad members who grow tired of minimal game-time.

The biggest concern around changing the selection policy comes with the potential max exodus of young, emerging talent.

Teenagers are already targeted. Some stay, some go, but former Warriors prospect Etene Nanai-Seturo offers an example of those willing to do anything to have a crack at the All Blacks.

Look around the All Blacks' changing room and many emerge from lower decile schools –Kapiti, Mangere, Tamaki, Feilding and the like.

These players are less likely to be spotted and targeted as they are not on television as much as high performance school programmes. And yet they still manage to come through, harnessing the dream of being an All Black.

School kids flooding out of the country might, therefore, not be a huge issue.

It would also put the microscope on successful rugby schools such as Hamilton Boys' and give the chance to assess why these teenagers aren't kicking on to All Blacks.

New Zealand is known for innovation and boldness. In this evolving space, open minds will be needed in time.

Hurricanes front
Props to the Hurricanes forward pack. The Crusaders were expected to target, and largely dominate, the Hurricanes up-front but they were never given the chance. The Crusaders won the odd scrum, and eventually got their rolling maul going, but the Hurricanes blew them away early by bossing the breakdown and bringing aggression and line-speed to their defence. Prop Chris Eves delivered the deft pass at the line that allowed Jordie Barrett to hit a brilliant angled line on the outside of Wyatt Crockett for TJ Perenara's try. Brad Shield's effort to charge-down Mitchell Hunt's attempted clearance in Matt Proctor's try typified the platform laid by the Canes' big men. Much has been made of the Crusaders' causalities but in this match the Canes were also missing front-rowers Jeff Toomaga-Allen, Dane Coles and Alex Fidow.

Speaking of physicality...

Fresh from slaying pigs during the bye, Liam Squire is in boss mode for the Highlanders. He made 12 tackles, scored a try and claimed three lineouts against the Stormers. But it is the combative nature of his every collision that can't be measured in stats. Must be something about big Africans that fires him up. Already showing he is ready to claim the All Blacks' No 6 mantle.

Rebels best Australian side

From easy-beats to top of the log, the Rebels have come full circle. Offseason recruitment and the demise of the Western Force has clearly made a difference but David Wessels may be the best coach in Australia. Shame the Rebels reside in a city where few care about rugby.