If it was a bit of a worry to see Ardie Savea and Jordie Barrett only commit to New Zealand Rugby for one more year this week, it will be positively alarming if Rieko Ioane soon makes the same short-term agreement.

At the moment, there's every chance Ioane, the best attacking weapon in world rugby, will turn down a five-year contract and instead say he's only prepared to sign through to the end of the World Cup in 2019.

The problem is money and while in the early years of professionalism the public tendency was to brand a player mercenary or grubbing if they held out for more, that is most definitely not the case with Ioane.

Read more: Why Jordie Barrett said no to a longer contract with NZ Rugby and the Hurricanes


Last year he won the World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year award, but he probably should also have won the Player of the Year award for which he was short-listed.

He may only be 21 but Ioane sits in the top echelon of players. From an All Blacks perspective, they jot down Kieran Read, Ben Smith, Beauden Barrett and Ioane…then fill in the rest of the blanks.

Everyone lost count of the number of times Ioane dug the All Blacks out of a hole last season and quite frankly, they wouldn't have won in Edinburgh if hadn't been for him and they may not have put Wales away the week after had it not been for the astonishing contribution he made.

His expectation – and who could possibly say he shouldn't hold it – is that if NZR want to lock him in for a long time, they need to value him in line with the country's best paid players.

That's not thought to have happened yet, hence Ioane has only given the Blues a verbal assurance he will be staying but hasn't yet signed anything.

Talks will continue until a sweet spot is struck – one where both parties feel comfortable that the money and duration of the deal are in alignment.

If they can't find a compromise value for a longer deal, Ioane, who wants to be part of the 2019 World Cup campaign, will most likely sign a one-year deal and look to re-ignite contract negotiations all over again at some stage next year.

No doubt, should Ioane only extend by 12 months, NZR will send out the obligatory jubilant press release about having retained one of the best emerging talents in the world, just as they did when two of the other most promising players, Barrett and Savea, only wanted to sign for that length of time.


But these short term deals are not a source of celebration at all, particularly if it becomes the case with Ioane.

This is the new landscape of test rugby: it's ferociously fast and explosive and in the outside backs it is increasingly a young man's game.

The erstwhile Ben Smith is the honourable exception, but the realisation should be dawning on those paid to monitor these things that typically the prime years for many outside backs come between the ages of 20 and 25.

Look at Julian Savea, off to France shortly at the age of 27 and if anyone didn't know why, they would have seen it in Friday's quarter-final where he looked more cart-horse than race horse when he tied up badly making his second long-range sprint in four minutes.

It's also impossible to ignore the cultural changes that have arrived with the digital age of near instant gratification.

The executive is heavily populated by an older generation, most of whom likely had to pay their dues to advance up the career ladder.

But Generation Y and Millennials don't have that same sense of needing to be patient and nor do emerging young players necessarily assume they will devote their entire career to New Zealand.

That creates a dangerous situation. Ioane, Barrett and Savea, whatever they are thinking now, might – in fact almost certainly will – receive ridiculous offshore offers next year and suddenly find themselves considering them seriously.

As a sobering reminder of how this can play out, minds only need to be cast back to 2015 when Charles Piutau, having signed but not returned to NZR his contract to stay for two more years, received a $1m a year offer from Ulster which he decided he couldn't refuse.

At 24, and with a huge All Blacks future ahead of him, he left for Northern Ireland.