Wellington - New Zealand Rugby announced a partnership with
English club Harlequins on Friday that could reportedly see star All Blacks on
international sabbaticals playing for the London-based side.
NZR chief executive Steve Tew said the deal was "new
territory" for his organisation and would help it tap into commercial
opportunities among London's large expatriate Kiwi community.
"This alignment will create significant opportunities
for both sides, with players, coaches and staff able to learn from different
environments with different people, challenges and cultures," Tew said in
The statement said NZR would cooperate on "playing and
coaching resources", as well as leveraging commercial opportunities, but
offered scant detail on how the deal would work in practice.
The New Zealand Herald reported that All Blacks taking a
break from the rigours of international rugby could turn out for Harlequins.
Sabbaticals have become standard for top All Blacks looking
to freshen up in recent years as NZR attempts to stop cashed-up overseas clubs
poaching its talent.
The likes of Dan Carter, Richie McCaw and Sonny Bill
Williams all had sabbaticals built into their contracts designed to keep them
with the All Blacks long term.
The issue of player retention has become more pressing for
the world champions as those in the prime of their career such as Lima Sopoaga,
Steven Luatua and Aaron Cruden opt to take the club cash on offer in Europe.
The deal is also likely to see Harlequins coaches and
players heading to New Zealand to gain experience playing southern hemisphere
"The All Blacks are the benchmark of excellence for all
teams, so to be able to align with them both on and off the pitch will be of
significant benefit to the club," chief executive David Ellis said.