In signing a new four-year contract, Rieko Ioane, at the age of just 21, has suddenly become one of the highest paid All Blacks and it took what has been described as a "paradigm shift" in attitudes to get there.

In the past, All Blacks have been rewarded on the basis of their experience - as well as their talent - but while Ioane clearly has plenty of the latter, he is only starting his test career.

The left wing was only 19 when he made his test debut off the bench against Italy in November 2016, and aged just 20 and with fewer than 15 caps when negotiations started on a new deal.

Now the World Rugby Breakout Player of 2017 has played 18 tests and scored as many test tries.


He had, and still has, potential to burn but New Zealand Rugby aren't generally in the business of rewarding that - they want a player to consistently perform to a high level for many years before dipping deep into their pockets.

In doing so in Ioane's case, they have recognised the need to change their mindset to retain one of the most exciting players in the world today.

"He's very young in rugby years and it took a paradigm shift because the old model wasn't going to cut it," Ioane's agent Bruce Sharrock told the Weekend Herald.

Acknowledging that his client was a "special talent", which is something New Zealand Rugby will also readily admit, Sharrock spoke of his determination to "take [Ioane's] value to near the top of the tree, but his experience didn't correlate with that, so that was the issue that took the most time".

Ioane wanted a four-year deal and on the face of it, the duration of the contract makes a good deal of sense for New Zealand Rugby - even if there is always a level of risk associated with longer-term deals.

Julian Savea, the man Ioane effectively replaced in the No11 jersey, signed a four-year deal in May 2015 that made the then 24-year-old one of the highest paid players in New Zealand history, earning an estimated $800,000 a year.

Unfortunately for Savea and NZR, his form dipped significantly after he re-committed, due in part to a lack of conditioning and he was even dropped by the Hurricanes.

Savea, who last played for the All Blacks in the third test against the British and Irish Lions in July 2017, made a big-money move to Toulon earlier this year.


The point is that four-year deals aren't without precedent for top All Blacks and it makes more sense to capture them at the start of their careers rather than nearer the end.

Now Ioane is tied to the black jersey and out of the clutches of wealthy and ambitious overseas clubs until the end of 2022. He will be well rewarded in terms of a salary - probably in the high six figures per year - and he also has the ability to start to leverage off his international profile with lucrative endorsement deals.

He is well known and liked by just about all New Zealanders but in particular children due to his pace (he has hit speeds of up to 37km/h in testing), power and ability get across the goalline but probably should take a careful approach to his marketing strategy due to his relative youth, and that's something the All Blacks coaches would agree with.

Steve Hansen and company are unlikely to want to see Ioane appearing on the back of too many buses at this stage of his career for fear that he will start to believe his own hype but the signs have been good so far. Ioane appears a grounded and modest individual despite his sudden ascent to the big time on the world stage.

"I feel incredibly privileged to get the opportunity to play my rugby here for another four years," Ioane said. "I want to give it my best shot at serving the black jersey and hopefully I'll get the chance to play at the Rugby World Cup in the future. That's a huge motivator for me.

Hansen said: "This is fantastic news for New Zealand Rugby. Rieko is a young player with undoubted talent who has already achieved wonderful things on the international stage. With his growing maturity and growth in his game understanding, I'm sure we'll see his game go to even greater heights."