On the same basis that possession is considered nine tenths of the law, if nine out of 10 people insist something is true then it must be.

So pity the fool who says the current narrative about New Zealand's player drain is not founded on truth but laziness.

Pity that same fool who says today's market looks much the same as it has for the last 15 years and that there is not one discernible piece of evidence that the volume of players leaving New Zealand is increasing.

Nor is there any reason to be persuaded there are new trends developing that are changing the landscape about what types of players are more susceptible to offshore offers and at what stage of their career they might take them up.


This is not an argument of denial, a refusal to accept the dangers posed and the enormity of the job facing New Zealand Rugby trying to hold the professional game together.

There are, patently, significant numbers of players leaving and it is unquestionably difficult for NZR to find the financial resources and arguments to persuade them to stay.

On this everyone can agree. But this is how things have been for almost two decades and there is no evidence to suggest NZR is now losing a war it was once winning.

The perpetual claim New Zealand is currently in the midst of an exodus is being made on perception not fact.

Announcements about players leaving have come thick and fast in the past eight weeks and that has provided all the ammunition some have needed to conclude the trend is worsening.

But that's a bit like Aucklanders looking out the window in June, seeing heavy rain day after day and concluding that's proof of global warming.

All Blacks winger Ben Smith. Photo / Photosport.co.nz
All Blacks winger Ben Smith. Photo / Photosport.co.nz

June is always horribly wet in Auckland and these early months of the year are when European clubs do their recruiting for the 2019-2020 season.

Go back through the last 15 years and every Super Rugby campaign has begun with a seemingly endless procession of player defections.


Hence there is need for comparative data and this is where the doomsday argument falls apart.

This time last year Charlie Faumuina, George Moala, Michael Fatialofa, Charlie Ngatai, Seta Tamanivalu, Blade Thomson, Dominic Bird, Brad Shields, Jerome Kaino, Julian Savea and Lima Sopoaga were just some of the players who signed offshore deals.

There was no one overly panicked about that even though it included three men who had been at the 2015 World Cup and another five with test experience.

So far this year Jeff Toomaga-Allen, Matt Proctor, Melani Nanai and Jordan Taufua have announced plans to leave and NZR's world is supposedly caving in.

This, though, isn't quite the full picture as there are other players who have also announced they are leaving.

But we have to shift the comparable data when evaluating the impending departures of Ben Smith, Liam Squire, Owen Franks, Nehe Milner-Skudder and Kieran Read.

Senior All Blacks deliberately come off contract in World Cup year with a view to potentially making the tournament their last act.

Therefore the volume of big name departures is always high in a World Cup year and that four of the last World Cup squad plus the obviously battered and drained Squire are set to move on, is exactly in keeping with previous World Cup years.

In 2015 it was Daniel Carter, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith and Ben Franks who called time.

In 2011 World Cup All Blacks Brad Thorn, Mils Muliaina, John Afoa and Stephen Donald left, while Isaia Toeava, Adam Thomson, Jimmy Cowan, Kaino and Sonny Bill Williams all moved on in 2012.

Just for the record, it is worth noting that a total of 27 contracted players left New Zealand in 2011 – while so far only nine have said they will not be here next year.

Inevitably there will be more who opt for foreign shores, but it is hard to see the volume reaching the same level it did in 2011.

The statistics can be compared and contrasted in multiple different ways, but almost regardless of how they are sliced and diced, they refuse to support the mass held view of a game in crises.

Simply repeating something as fact, doesn't make it a fact, no matter how many people repeat the lie.

If anything, a bit of number crunching casts a little ray of sunshine across the landscape.

By comparing World Cup cycles it is even possible to show that the trend is actually going the opposite way and more New Zealanders are staying than leaving.

Of the 30 players who went to the 2007 World Cup, 20 left before the 2011 World Cup. That compares with the 15 2011 World Cup All Blacks who left before the 2015 tournament.

Of the 31 who went to the 2015 World Cup, 17 are still here and of the 14 who are not, four of therm retired rather than shifted offshore.

If the argument moves into the less tangible, this business of New Zealand's so-called second tier of players being more susceptible to offshore offers than they have ever been, can also be easily dismissed.

It has long been a problem. In 2011 former All Blacks coach Graham Henry bemoaned the fact that the likes of Jared Payne, Daniel Bowden, Michael Paterson and Ti'i Paulo all left when they were on the cusp of test selection.

His successor, Steve Hansen, made the same argument in 2014 when Bundee Aki left for Ireland and again last year when Shields signed with Wasps and by extension committed himself to play for England.

And nor should anyone try to argue that the decisions by Sopoaga, Aaron Cruden and Steven Luatua to leave New Zealand is proof that the All Blacks jersey has lost it allure and that there is now a new phenomenon of players being willing to walk away from it when they are still in their prime.

Go back to 2007 and the same thing was happening when Aaron Mauger, Carl Hayman and Luke McAlister all packed up for overseas contracts. The former two were just 27 and the latter was only 24 and all three had big test futures ahead of them.

As did Nick Evans when he left in 2008 and Colin Slade and Charles Piutau when they moved on in 2016.

NZR is under siege and there is a steady outflow of players. That much is not in dispute and hasn't been for 20 years.

But the flow of departures is not increasing no matter how many people decide to say it is.