All Blacks legend Richie McCaw never considered playing abroad but admits New Zealand have to accept the damaging player-drain is an inevitable fact of life with the World Cup in Japan set to signal the latest wave of departures.
McCaw believes the only viable defence New Zealand rugby can mount is to work to ensure playing for the All Blacks remains the ultimate carrot and the lifestyle created around that honour remains the goal for any Kiwi player.
The 38-year-old former captain, who quit after helping New Zealand win successive World Cups, entered the debate amid reports that Brodie Retallick will be playing his rugby in Japan after the World Cup in that country. Also set to quit domestic New Zealand rugby are Beauden Barrett, Kieran Read and Ben Smith.
“I think it’s always been a challenge,” McCaw told the New Zealand Herald. “I didn’t have any real burning desires to go and play anywhere else. If I was going to play properly, and you want to do that wherever you’re playing, I would want to play in New Zealand because that’s the team I enjoyed. I think when I gave up, I was at the point where I knew it was going to become tougher and tougher to keep that motivation and all the training you needed to do, just cause that’s what happens. And I thought, well, if I can see that it might start to happen here, it would be even worse for a team you don’t know a lot about.
“It was pretty easy decision not to even consider.”
While McCaw opted to stay at home he acknowledges that the player drain is a fact of life and added: “It has been for a while and it’s always going to be. It’s just unfortunate the things you have to deal with as New Zealand Rugby. I think we’re probably never going to compete dollar-for-dollar for what’s on offer for some of these guys up in the Northern Hemisphere.
“You’ve just got to make it really hard for guys to make that decision to go overseas. We’ve always said having an environment that’s really enjoyable and fulfilling, [where] you get looked after, and the chance to play for the All Blacks, that’s the things that we’ve got in our favour as New Zealand Rugby. They are the things that you can control and if you do that, then hopefully we encourage a good number to stay behind and stay here and keep playing. But I think it’s always going to be a challenge and we’ll be talking about it for a long time but we’ve just got to keep hopefully inspiring people that want to perform in the black jersey because I think it’s a pretty big carrot to stay here.
“And some will [leave], and rightly so if that’s the right thing for them. But if we keep the environment good and the All Blacks successful, it’s quite a hard team – when you’ve had a taste of it – to turn your back on.”
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