With Charles Piutau having decided to go overseas, New Zealand Rugby hopes Colin Slade isn't heading in the same direction.
Slade, who had a breakout season for the All Blacks and Crusaders last year, is off contract at the end of this year and has been described as a high-priority retention.
French club Pau, who have already signed Conrad Smith from next year, are said to be interested in signing the 27-year-old Slade, a versatile and in-form first-five.
On the day the news broke that Pau were offering Slade a contract said to be worth about $700,000, New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew effectively described him as a flight risk.
"He is a high priority for us to retain on behalf of the Crusaders and the All Blacks coaches and Colin has been given that message very clearly both in terms of dialogue and the offer that is in front of him," Tew said yesterday. "But like all of our players he has choices to make and we have to give him space to make those choices."
After yesterday announcing New Zealand Rugby had made a $373,000 profit for 2014, Tew admitted Piutau's decision to sign a two-year contract with Ulster was "disappointing", but made it clear New Zealand Rugby can't keep all their players.
"We don't think we are currently in a crisis. Yes, we would have preferred to have kept Charles but he is the only young All Black that we have lost currently who was a surprise to us. But there will be others, there's no question about that."
Slade is one of four All Blacks first-fives in the World Cup mix alongside Dan Carter, Beauden Barrett and Aaron Cruden, but his point of difference is his utility value. He has pace, can kick off both feet, is a brave defender and is excellent under the high ball which means he can cover fullback and wing; if Piutau fails to make the World Cup squad because of his impending move to Belfast, Slade's stock will rise considerably.
Slade, in outstanding form during the Crusaders' 52-10 thrashing of the Sharks in Durban last weekend, was a success story on last year's All Blacks' Northern tour. He joined Steve Hansen's team after playing for the Barbarians in London and made a big impact on the wing against Scotland and from the bench at first-five against Wales.
Steven Luatua's decision to sign with the Blues and New Zealand Rugby is a bright spot for the franchise with no wins from seven matches this season.
"Part of the reason I'm staying behind is the pull of the black jersey," Luatua said.
"I've had a taste of it, and it's one of those things where you just want more."