Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she would rather government funding goes to grassroots rugby than to the All Blacks.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen raised the issue of financial support to stop players from being lured overseas by big money when Ardern visited the players' dressing room during the Bledisloe Cup match at the weekend.
"I think probably our support is better placed at that grassroots level. It's not something [Hansen's] formally pitched so I'm a bit loathe to get into hypotheticals," Ardern told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking this morning.
"The question is will we ever be able to keep pace with what may happen beyond what we're able to pay here. I think it's a slight disservice to players to assume that that's the only thing that goes on in their thinking.
"Someone who seeks an international career, sometimes that's actually because they're looking for a chance to have that experience abroad. Equally, the honour of playing in the All Blacks, that's significant too," Ardern said.
Sports Minister Grant Robertson told NewstalkZB yesterday that Hansen was "doing what he does best, which is advocating for his sport and his team" when he said the team needed financial support to stop players being paid big money to play overseas.
"The All Blacks are an amazing team and one that we should all be proud of, but that's not something we are considering," Robertson said.
He too noted that the Government had "a great relationship with NZ Rugby around growing the grassroots game", including developing women's rugby.
NZ Rugby chief executive Steve Tew said the organisation was spending $5 million to $7m a year more than it earned, with 36 per cent of costs going to pay players.
"If that 36 per cent is under pressure because the price of our players in the international market continues to escalate, with no real science behind it other than just these very wealthy club owners wanting to have the best team, then that's a pressure point," he said.
"Frankly, I had the same conversation with the Prime Minister and minister myself in the grandstand. If our team, and our talent is important to New Zealand, then sitting down with the Government at some point and time about what we might do together is useful.
"In fact, we've already got a number of partnerships with government agencies; we have a high-performance relationship with High Performance Sport NZ, a decent chunk of that is government-funded."
Tew highlighted Beauden Barrett, who has reportedly been offered $3.4m a year to join a French club after next year's Rugby World Cup.
A Herald online poll asking "Should the Government give NZ Rugby money to keep top players in the country?" is running at 69 per cent against and 31 per cent in favour.