What are they not telling me?

That's the question which came screaming across when Ardie Savea turned his back on a French contract following the 2019 World Cup, to instead sign a new deal with New Zealand.

In typical ho-hum Kiwi rugby fashion, Savea Going to France became Savea Staying Home with all the excitement that comes with mowing the lawn.

It was actually a massive turn of events. Savea is still a superstar in the making.


Something dramatic has gone on, and here's my guess at what it is.

The rugby big-wigs are, quite rightly, very concerned about their openside favourite Sam Cane after he broke his neck against South Africa in October.

So they hurled a pile of money at Savea — the next best number seven by a long way — to tempt him away from French club Pau.

There are a host of reasons why the notoriously shy Rugby Kremlin wasn't exactly trumpeting this.

1) Cane's future is a tricky topic - quite understandably people in high places want to remain positive for the player's sake.

2) Cane's future is a tricky topic - people in high places don't want to unnecessarily reveal major hiccups in the All Blacks' World Cup plans.

3) Cane's future is a tricky topic - devastating injuries to star players are bad PR.

4) There is a hierarchy of player payments in this country with the All Black captain usually at the top. But with so much doubt about Cane's future, Savea's retention suddenly assumed an importance beyond this pay scale. NZR never talks money, and will be keener than ever to keep whatever they are paying Savea quiet. We're talking unique market forces here, something NZR likes to bypass if at all possible.


5) The idea that Savea might be gaining from Cane' misfortune doesn't sit well in rugby's all-for-one, one-for-all la-la land.

Savea confirmed his decision on Instagram with the words 'Truly blessed to have re-signed with NZ for 2020-2021...to be honest it was a very tough decision but being at home with family and close friends and the opportunity to play for All Blacks, Hurricanes, Wellington I couldn't leave.'

In other words, he didn't offer anything new as a decision for turning his back on Pau (although to be fair, he hadn't confirmed the Pau move himself in the first place).

It was a surprise to hear that Savea, an integral All Blacks squad member who is only 25, was intending to leave anyway. He obviously didn't fancy his chances of getting past Cane.

A bewildered Pau accepted that u-turn, a spokesman saying it was the "risk you take when wanting to recruit a young player".

It has to be assumed New Zealand Rugby tried fairly hard to keep Savea in the first place. It is equally fair to assume they were forced to up the ante. (I've certainly heard rumours that other Super Rugby players are interested in what Savea is getting).

Reading between the lines, analysing Cane's own words, relying on a hunch...I'd say the odds aren't great on the muscular flanker returning to the top.

His neck fracture, requiring immediate surgery, was a tragic and frightening reminder of what a tough sport rugby is, and how outstanding careers can suddenly be taken away.

Apart from the unknowns when it comes to his physical recovery, there may be mental hurdles in such a high impact sport.

This Ardie Savea story is really about a serious injury and probably — in rugby terms — serious money.

Just saying.