14 Apr 2015

Battle to halt player drain will never be won

12:54 pm on 14 April 2015

Halting the departure of the country's top rugby players overseas is a battle that will never be won, says Rugby Players Association chief executive Rob Nichol.

The All Blacks and Crusaders first five Colin Slade is the latest to announce he'll be leaving after the world cup, having signed a three year deal with French club Pau for a reported $700,000 a year.

Nichol said it was a battle New Zealand rugby had been fighting for 15 years or more, but he believed they had managed to hold on to many players longer than they might otherwise have been able to.

"We work very hard on what is the most compelling proposition we can put forward to retain our talent, accepting that sometimes that is either not going to be enough or it's not going to be the right decision for the player to stay. We're going to lose some people there's just not doubt about it," he said.

All Blacks and Crusaders player Colin Slade is off to French club Pau on a three year deal believed to be worth $700,000 a year.

All Blacks and Crusaders player Colin Slade is off to French club Pau on a three year deal believed to be worth $700,000 a year. Photo: Photosport

"We care about them a people and not just athletes, first and foremost it's about them as people and what we can create for them not just on the field but off it as well...(but) ultimately there comes a point where money is key part for a young person looking to provide for their family," Nichol said.

"If they've given six, seven, eight years service to New Zealand rugby and there's an opportunity off shore it's hard to deny them that. So yes money can be an absolute major factor, but it's not everything and for every guy that we are losing because of the money there are guys who are staying despite the money."

The chief executive of the International Rugby Players Association, Rob Nichol.

The chief executive of the New Zealand Rugby Players Association, Rob Nichol. Photo: Photosport

A few years ago when the global financial crisis arrived there were suggestions the bubble would burst for European clubs and the cash on offer for players would dry up.

But Nichol said that was never the view of the Players Association.

"Europe is not going to burst. There might be the odd club that will get itself in trouble but there's another owner that will step up.

"The new European competition that replaced the old Heineken Cup, that was done for commercial reason. That disupte (between the privately owned clubs and national rugby bodies) was all about the club owners saying we're not happy with the way you are running this competition commercially because you are not exploiting it for its true value..

"And the clubs were right (so) this challenge will not go away if anything it will just get more intense," Nichol said.

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