Jonathan Davies: Kiwis block our tiros – while theirs get a chance

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The Independent Online

On the face of it, the number of top All Blacks anxious to cash in on the big pay-packets available in the northern hemisphereis a little reminiscent of the regular exodus of Welsh players to rugby league during thepast century.

When I went to Widnes from Llanelli in 1989, I was the 154th Welshman to leave Wales to become a league professional, and I wasn't the last.

The big difference between us and the All Blacks is that we were going into a different game and there was no prospect of ever going back. The incoming New Zealanders aren't changing games and there's every chance of them going back for the 2011 World Cup.

The existing rules mean that they can't play for their country while they are based abroad but if they go back to play in New Zealand in time, they can play for the All Blacks again.

In any case, can you imagine any situation in which they would tell a top player that he didn't qualify to play for New Zealand in a World Cup?

Their ace outside-half Dan Carter is hoping to come over here in November, play a couple of seasons and get back in time. That great flanker Jerry Collins was said to be asking the NZRU to release him from his contract so that he can avail himself of the same lucrative opportunity to come over here to play, though he has denied it.

Nick Evans, who is rated a potential challenger for Carter's position, has pledged to join Harlequins on a three-year contract. As I asked before, do you think he would be banished by the All Blacks if he turned out to be a world-beater?

With seven or eight All Blacks already over here, I'm not surprised they are not very happy back in New Zealand and worried at the effect it will have on their domestic game.

But there are two ways to look at it, and it could be that we will come off the worse for the arrangement. The gaps that are left in New Zealand rugby by the senior players could be beneficial in the development of younger players by giving them playing opportunities they wouldn't otherwise have had.

While their star players are getting richer and improving their knowledge of the way we play, there will be a new wave of young players who are proving themselves back home. This could considerably enhance the strength in depth of their squad for the 2011 World Cup, while their best players will be here, blocking the progress of our promising youngsters.

Furthermore, there is nocast-iron guarantee that the incoming stars will be a success. Clubs undoubtedly take a gamble in investing in big names from abroad, especially on short-term contracts.

Even the finest players don't always respond well to being taken from their environment, their comfort zone, to play in an unfamiliar competition. It takes time. There is no doubting the quality of players such as Aaron Mauger, Carl Hayman and Carlos Spencer, but you wouldn't say they have been unqualified successes in our rugby.

I'm not knocking New Zealand players. Those who have been here long-term, such as Xavier Rush, Ben Blair and Regan King, have been brilliant imports. Of the newcomers, Luke McAlister has been tremendous at Sale.

But it is a gamble, and if I was looking to sign a player from the southern hemisphere I would be studying not only his ability as a player but also as an individual who would be able to adapt quickly to club life in his new surroundings. The reservations about this trend are not confined to New Zealand.

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