Why France-bound Ngani Laumape felt 'underwhelmed' by New Zealand Rugby's 'lowball' contract offer
It was announced on Monday that Laumape will join French Top 14 club Stade Francais at the end of Super Rugby Trans-Tasman in a deal that robs the Hurricanes of one of their star men and the All Blacks of a useful depth option.
According to a report from the New Zealand Herald, though, a useful depth option was as important as Laumape perceived himself to be within the Kiwi rugby fraternity after NZR’s latest contract offer.
The Herald reports the 28-year-old’s three-year deal with the Parisian club has secured him a seven-figure salary, $400,000 more per year than what NZR were offering.
Despite his reported preference to stay in New Zealand, Laumape decided to take the Stade Francais offer, not only because of the deal’s financial element, but also because of his status as a fringe All Black and the lack of pay rise being offered by NZR, according to the Herald.
Since making his All Blacks against the British and Irish Lions four years ago, Laumape has accumulated just 15 tests for the national side, often missing out to the likes of Sonny Bill Williams, Ryan Crotty, Anton Lienert-Brown and Jack Goodhue.
Despite his explosive ball-running ability that has often been on show at Super Rugby level for the Hurricanes, Laumape was one of the most notable omissions from Sir Steve Hansen’s 2019 World Cup squad.
In the wake of the All Blacks’ semi-final exit in that tournament, critics noted Laumape’s powerful ball-carrying threat was noticeably absent and would have been highly valued against the stern English defence that nullified the Kiwis’ blunt attack.
Williams and Crotty both departed New Zealand after that World Cup, opening the door for Laumape – who had just signed a fresh two-year deal with NZR – to stake his claim for a regular place in the All Blacks.
As part of that contract extension, the Herald reports that Laumape was handed a significant pay rise as he was seen as Williams’ likely successor in the No. 12 jersey due to his hard-running, power-based game.
However, failure to establish himself as New Zealand’s first-choice pick at second-five last year – in part due to a broken forearm sustained in the midst of a hot run of form during Super Rugby Aotearoa – limited Laumape to just two tests in 2020.
Neither of his appearances against the Wallabies showed Laumape at his best, although factors such as his bench role in Bledisloe III and Ofa Tuungafasi’s early red card in Bledisloe IV played parts in Laumape’s inability to fire in last year’s Tri-Nations.
Former All Black Richard Kahui predicts Australian teams will receive a shock when they come up against their New Zealand rivals in the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman competition. #SuperRugbyTransTasman https://t.co/HNI7XFvV2k
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) May 11, 2021
Fast forward to this year, the former NRL wing has again been part of a convoluted battle for places in the All Blacks midfield, up against the likes of Lienert-Brown, Goodhue, Rieko Ioane, David Havili, Leicester Fainga’anuku, Braydon Ennor and Peter Umaga-Jensen for spots in Ian Foster’s squad.
With that in mind, the Herald reports the value of Laumape’s latest contract offer from NZR was similar to that of the deal he signed in 2019, of which he reportedly perceived as an indication that he is viewed as a mid-tier player by the All Blacks.
As a result, he threw his lot in with Stade Francais, opting for financial security for his family – including his three children – over extending his All Blacks career.
It means Laumape will be unavailable for the All Blacks’ July tests as his commitments in France begin immediately after the Trans-Tasman competition.
Laumape and the Hurricanes kick-off their Trans-Tasman campaign against the Waratahs at the Sydney Cricket Ground at 7:45pm on Friday [local time].
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