Why All Blacks hopeful has ‘no regrets about signing overseas’
For young rugby players growing up in New Zealand, the childhood dream of one day running out in the iconic black jersey is fuelled by passion, belief and commitment.
Becoming an All Black means joining an exclusive list of New Zealanders who have been fortunate enough to represent the rugby-mad nation on the international stage.
Chiefs midfielder Alex Nankivell shared the dream with many of his countrymen growing up, but is prepared to walk away from it at the end of the year.
Nankivell has starred at Super Rugby Pacific level over the last couple of seasons in particular, and has been called up to representative level with the Maori All Blacks and All Blacks XV throughout his career.
But, at least so far, the All Blacks dream continues to allude the 26-year-old – and time is running out.
Nankivell is a talented player, and is both reliable in defence and lethal in attack. But the midfielder has signed a contract with Irish club Munster, and will leave New Zealand after this year’s World Cup.
The Chiefs confirmed in February that the outside centre had penned a deal with the famous Irish club, and Clayton McMillan added that it was “never ideal” to lose someone of Nankivell’s quality.
But the papers have been signed, and the next chapter in Alex Nankivell’s career awaits.
“I’ve got no regrets about signing overseas,” Nankivell told RugbyPass. “I think last year, if I was going to make the ABs, it would have been that year.
“I feel like I’ve given it enough of a crack the last two years and I feel like I’ve played some decent rugby
“It kind of gets to a stage where, how long do you keep staying around fighting for that dream where you’re getting older and older, you might pick up and injury.
“Then the opportunity overseas, the window to actually play for a few years and play some decent rugby while you still can I guess gets smaller and smaller.”
At just 26 years of age, and with so much growth left in the New Zealanders game, this decision may have come as a shock to some within the rugby community.
Nankivell is a player on the rise, but is eager to spread his wings and soak up everything that the sport has to offer abroad.
“The opportunity go overseas for rugby players is huge and I guess it’s a different environment, different culture, and they play different rugby over there,” he added.
“For myself, it’s a challenge more than anything to go over there and grow as a player and grow as a person. I’ve always wanted to do that.
“Travel and things like that, it’s a lot easier. You’re playing in South Africa one week and Scotland (or) Italy the next.
“For my age, I’m 26 turning 27, I’m a really competitive guy and for me I don’t want to finish rugby playing in New Zealand and then go over and clip a ticket.
“I want to go over and contribute to another team and (get) fully amongst the team that I’m playing for.
“I can’t just go over and clip a ticket, a want to be involved in the week-to-week in that team’s performance.
“Just with the ABs stuff, obviously my dream is to be an All Black and that window is only open for so long. I think just timing wise, I think it’s a good time for me to go post-World Cup.
“Obviously my goal this year is still to try and push into that side and whatever happens will happen there.”
But even if the All Blacks door closes for Nankivell later this year, that’s not to say that another might not open over in Ireland.
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When Nankivell put pen to paper with the Thomond Park-based club, he didn’t consider the possibility of playing for the world’s no. 1 ranked side sometime in the future.
“I honestly didn’t think about that when I signed, it was more ‘go play for Munster.’
“Thinking about it now, five years because I’ve got no grandparents or anything or parents that have Irish heritage, I think it’s too far back, so it’d be the old five years play.
“By then I’ll be, far out 31, so I’d probably be pretty broken by then to be honest but never say never, we’ll see what happens.”
Nankivell has played 10 matches for the high-flying Chiefs this season, and started eight of those at outside centre.
But in a big blow for both Nankivell and the Chiefs, the midfielder has been ruled out of this weekend’s quarter-final with an injury.
The Chiefs are set to host the Queensland Reds at Hamilton’s FMG Stadium 4.35pm NZST on Saturday.
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