Ngani Laumape faced a stark financial choice in weighing whether to leave New Zealand rugby and move to France this year.
The Herald understands the All Blacks and Hurricanes second five-eighth will earn seven figures annually after signing a three-year deal with Paris-based Stade de Francais that begins in July - the result of a bidding war with fellow big-spending French club Toulon.
Laumape's offer from New Zealand Rugby, including provincial, Super Rugby and All Blacks incentives, is believed to fall $400,000 short of his French deal each year, leaving him contemplating a disparity of $1.2 million over three years.
While the 28-year-old's decision was not purely financial, he is thought to have been underwhelmed by New Zealand Rugby's offer to the point of feeling undervalued.
Laumape's preference was to stay in New Zealand but after spending several years on the fringe of the All Blacks – he started one test in last year's condensed season – and being presented with what he perceived as a lowball offer, he has elected to take his destructive skills elsewhere at the conclusion of the Super Rugby transtasman competition.
The 28-year-old's imminent exit will be a body blow for the Hurricanes after they lost a host of leadership experience in recent seasons which includes Beauden Barrett's departure to the Blues last year. Rookie Hurricanes playmaker Ruben Love recently spoke glowingly of the guidance Laumape has offered him this season.
The Hurricanes, after finishing last in Super Rugby Aotearoa, are also fighting to retain Jordie Barrett and captain Ardie Savea, both of whom are off contract this year, but received some positive news this week with TJ Perenara turning down the Sydney Roosters to return home from Japan.
In many ways the Hurricanes' hands are largely tied when it comes to retaining their All Blacks. The Wellington franchise can only do so much with New Zealand's maximum Super Rugby salary capped at $195,000, outside any third-party payments.
New Zealand's central contracting model therefore falls on the national body to set the salary values.
Despite losing this contracting battle, the Herald understands NZ Rugby believe they tabled Laumape a fair offer given the significant uplift he gained two years ago and his status within the All Blacks' pecking order.
Laumape has played 15 tests since 2017; five in the past two years.
In his last two-year deal, Laumape is understood to have received a sizeable salary rise that accelerated his earnings on the basis of the physical strengths no one else in his role in the New Zealand game has, and the expectation he would step into the All Blacks' midfield post Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty.
Traditionally, in the modern era at least, the All Blacks have favoured a powerful, direct presence No 12. Laumape was earmarked as the man to fill the Ma'a Nonu-Williams void from 2020 onwards and his last contract reflected that potential.
The contracting situation this time around may have been different had Laumape not broken his arm last July after producing superb form for the Hurricanes. Who could forget him skinning Beauden Barrett in his return to Wellington?
When he returned later in the year for the All Blacks, though, Laumape played 20 minutes off the bench in Sydney and started amid a raft of changes in the loss to the Wallabies in Brisbane.
When it came time to renegotiate NZ Rugby considered what they could afford within budget constraints at a time when everybody largely wants to stay home due to the global Covid-19 landscape.
Anton Lienert-Brown and injured Crusaders centre Jack Goodhue have been consistently preferred in the All Blacks midfield and with Rieko Ioane, Leicester Fainga'anuku, David Havili, Braydon Ennor and Peter Umaga-Jensen also in the mix, Laumape was ultimately offered a similar figure to his last deal by NZ Rugby.
That lack of uplift, and essentially being perceived as a mid-tier player, left Laumape underwhelmed.
After feeling aggrieved to miss out on the 2019 World Cup squad to Crotty, Williams, Goodhue and Lienert-Brown, Laumape has now decided to prioritise providing for his family, including three children, over continuing to chase the black jersey.
The Hurricanes are the big losers in this case, and there will always be a sense the All Blacks did not give Laumape enough opportunities to prove his worth on the test stage.
After emerging from humble Palmerston North roots, no one can begrudge Laumape banking on security.