A rugby writer based in the UK has expressed his thoughts on former All Blacks plying their trade in the northern hemisphere, claiming that several have failed to live up to their superstar billing and struggled to adapt after leaving New Zealand.
Writing for The Guardian, Paul Rees argues that while New Zealand players and coaches will forever be highly sought by European clubs, northern hemisphere rugby has been tough for even the best to crack.
“The expectation was that Carter would dazzle in the Top 14 as he had for the Crusaders and the All Blacks but the environments were markedly different,” Rees wrote.
“They made two European Champions Cup finals in his three years there and won the Top 14 but Carter’s influence at a club that included five other former All Blacks was, if not muted, understated.”
As for Savea – New Zealand’s second-highest test try scorer – Rees feels he has been lacklustre in his first year abroad.
“[Sopoaga] is further proof that it is unwise to expect an instant return from pedigree players when they are exposed to a distinctly different climate.”
Rees said that while a few former All Blacks have been an exception, for the most part, New Zealand players are no longer the “golden ticket” for European clubs. And Rees’ argument extends to the sidelines as well.
“The same applies to coaches. Northampton raised eyebrows last year when they announced Chris Boyd was arriving from the Hurricanes, home of the Barrett brothers. A club that for a decade had been arguably the most structured side in the Premiership had turned into risk-takers.
“New Zealand coaches who join clubs in the Premiership or Top 14 are confronted by something they have not experienced at home – relegation.”
Boyd’s Saints were close to the Premiership’s relegation zone after a slow start, but a recent run of form has seen them head closer to the middle of the table. They currently sit seventh with five wins and six losses, while Sopoaga’s Wasps are in eighth.
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