Wellington - Rising stars Brodie Retallick and Julian Savea have signed
long-term deals that will keep them with the All Blacks through to the 2019
World Cup, New Zealand Rugby said on Wednesday.
NZR chief executive Steve Tew hailed the signings as a coup for the team,
who face a major talent drain after this year's World Cup as at least 10
players take up big-money offers from overseas clubs.
"It's not news that there's a lot of pressure on our talent and it's
ramped up of late," he said.
"We know our players have choices, so to have them commit long-term to
New Zealand Rugby is very pleasing."
Lock Retallick, 23, is the current World Rugby player of the year, while
24-year-old powerhouse Savea is one of the game's most devastating wingers,
scoring 30 tries in his 33 Tests.
Neither Retallick nor Savea have sabbaticals built into their new contracts
allowing them to take time out from New Zealand for a stint playing overseas.
Savea admitted he had considered club offers but the lure of the All Blacks
"There's always temptation, I'm not going to lie, but the black jersey
means a lot to me and I want to be in it for as long as I can," he said.
Savea said he had not yet decided if he would skip the 2016 season to play
sevens at the Rio Olympics next year, when the shortened form of rugby will
make its Games debut.
"I've got a lot of decisions to make, we're still in the process and
hopefully we'll get it all sorted soon," he said.
Retallick said he wanted to play out his career in his homeland and join the
likes of legends Richie McCaw and Dan Carter in earning 100-plus Test caps.
"I'm still young and still enjoying playing for the best team in the
world," he said.
McCaw and Carter are among those set to depart after this year's World Cup,
with Carter off to France's Racing Metro and McCaw likely to hang up his boots.
The player exodus includes veterans Ma'a Nonu (Toulon) and Conrad Smith
(Pau), who are near the end of their international careers.
But more worryingly for the All Blacks, it also includes talented youngsters
Charles Piutau (Ulster), Francis Saili (Munster), Tom Taylor (Bayonne) and
Frank Halai (Wasps).
Tew said retaining marquee players such as Retallick and Savea should
encourage others to stick with the reigning world champions, rather than pursue
lucrative contracts in Europe or Japan.
He likened the signings to the announcement four years ago that McCaw and
Carter were staying with the All Blacks until the 2015 World Cup.
"I would put the news today in the same category, two of our finest
young players with huge futures in from of them," he said.
I think it's a really important announcement for New Zealand Rugby."