This is a very rich complaint indeed from Steve Tew, of New Zealand’s Rugby Union. So rich as to cause a certain mental indigestion among those who consider it:
Steve Tew, the New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive, has warned that players as young as 15 are being targeted in what he describes as an unprecedented threat to his country’s playing stocks.
In the past year, the five New Zealand franchises have lost 17 players, including seven All Blacks, to European clubs including Aaron Cruden, Steve Luatua and Malakai Fekitoa as their Super Rugby season starts this week.
That situation is mirrored in Australia and South Africa, who have lost more than 200 players to overseas clubs in recent years.
Many more will depart, with Wasps announcing the signings of Lima Sopoaga and Brad Shields for next season. Fellow All Blacks Liam Messam, Jerome Kaino and Charlie Ngatai are also heading for the exit door.
Tew is accustomed to his high-profile stars being in demand, but told The Daily Telegraph that it was the targeting of school-age players that was setting alarm bells ringing.
The All Blacks have been trawling the Pacific Islands for talent for many a decade now. In fact, the relative weakness of Tonga, Samoa and so on is oft put to the manner in which promising youngsters are offered a bit of schooling and training in New Zealand while they qualify to play for New Zealand.
The importance of this is that rugby is a vicious, violent, game which can only be played by those who have some sense of fair play. It just doesn’t work without that. This applies to recruitment policies just as much as to what happens in the front row.
Now they’re coming for the Kiwi Kiddies, well, tu quoque eh, tu quoque.