How important is Rieko Ioane to New Zealand and the All Blacks?

How highly does Ioane rank the black jersey? Higher than a hefty bank cheque?

The question is bound to come up this year as negotiations between New Zealand Rugby and Ioane develop.

Last year he was named the World Rugby breakthrough player of the year and on the open market the 21-year-old could see the big bucks.

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Having scored 11 tries in 13 tests, Ioane has become a primary strike weapon for Auckland, the Blues, and the All Blacks.

Donning the famous number 11 jersey, he is putting the fear of God back into world rugby and with every touch of the ball the All Black is driving up his own market value.

So, the question has to be raised, how much money are New Zealand Rugby willing to fork out on Ioane to keep him with the All Blacks after this year?

A four-year deal would retain the young-gun until 2022, while a five-year deal would see him play not only next year's world cup, but the world cup in 2023.

Ioane would turn 26 in 2023 - the age that the All Blacks have historically ditched their wingers.

But don't expect New Zealand Rugby to commit to a long-term goal right away following the flop of former standout performer Julian Savea.

Savea was at the height of the rugby market after the 2015 Rugby World Cup which saw the NZRU sign him for an estimated $3.2 million until 2019 - around $800,000 a year.

Savea turned 25 before the world cup and has since been dropped from the All Blacks all-together in the wake of Ioane's entrance to international rugby.

The deal certainly hasn't panned out well for New Zealand Rugby and highlights the risk in signing athletes for long periods of time.

Ioane should fetch a figure similar to Savea's deal - given his form and young age, it would appear to be a good deal.

Rugby Pass reports Ioane could earn in excess of NZD$4 million over four years.

"If we can agree healthy long-term deals they will be rewarded well by anyone's estimations," NZR head of professional rugby Chris Lendrum told the Herald earlier this year.

"We're going to back their potential and the fact they will become more experienced and we'll treat them as key components of the All Blacks."

"The implication in the past has been it takes players more than one year of performance to get up into the highest rungs of our pay scale," Lendrum said.

The allure of finances has seen other young and bright-shining All Black stars leave the land of the long white cloud for foreign shores in Europe and Japan.

Players like Charles Piutau, Malakai Fekitoa, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Steven Luatua and Aaron Cruden all decided to leave the All Blacks in search of greener pastures.

An impressive Northern Hemisphere tour last year saw Ioane dismantle teams from France, Wales, Scotland and the Barbarians, something that would have impressed local franchises.

More lucrative deals are certain to come across Ioane's desk, with talent like his able to draw in a similar price tag to Piutau at £1 million per season (NZD $1.9 million per season).

Current skipper of the All Blacks Kieran Read is thought to be the first New Zealand-based player to earn $1 million salary.

Given his influence on the game and his popularity, Ioane could easily leapfrog Read into New Zealand's highest paid rugby player.

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