Crusaders set to lose key players

The NZRU board was this week presented with a paper promoting the idea of its best players representing wealthy overseas clubs on short-term contracts before returning home to the All Blacks.

The idea is to allow the players to take up short term contracts but also to allow them to return to play for New Zealand’s All Blacks eevn though they would have skipped the Super 14.

The concept will not please the Crusaders.

According to The Press the idea requires the NZRU to create new legislation but the concept would allow premier players such as All Blacks and Crusaders first five-eighths Dan Carter to earn a massive salary from a short-term contract while experiencing an overseas lifestyle.

Current rules state overseas players cannot represent the All Blacks. But with the player drain set to continue, the NZRU is desperate to plug the gaps.

Carter, who comes off contract at the end of the season, has already been linked to wealthy French clubs Toulon and Toulouse, and English club Saracens.

While this plan could help the NZRU retain Carter, it is unlikely to thrill the Crusaders who watched him ascend through the Canterbury age-group teams and nurtured him in its academy.

Losing him would be a massive blow for the Super competition’s most successful franchise; not only is he a proven match winner, he also pulls fans through the gates.

While the NZRU is likely to grant dispensations only to those it believes are too valuable to lose, the Crusaders could potentially be hit hardest.

Skipper Richie McCaw is another who will be chased by overseas clubs when his contract expires at the end of next season.

Carter’s expected exodus aside, there will be some other holes in the Crusaders’ roster next season, and whoever takes over from new Wallabies coach Robbie Deans will be expected to launch a vigorous recruitment drive.

Blindside flanker Reuben Thorne, who has appeared in eight finals and won eight winners’ medals, has already announced he will leave to play in Japan after the Super 14 and prop, Greg Somerville, is pondering whether to stay in New Zealand or join a club in the United Kingdom.

Mose Tuiali’i is another who will become a free agent this year. His destiny may depend on whether the All Blacks selectors decide they want to carry Rodney So’oialo as their sole specialist No. 8.

The last of the nine tests Tuiali’i, 27, played for the All Blacks was in 2006, with the selectors opting to use Chris Masoe or Sione Lauaki as the back-up No. 8.

The future of lock Brad Thorn, who converted back from rugby league after a three-year stint with the Brisbane Broncos, probably depends on whether he wins back an All Blacks jersey.

Thorn, 33, has been one of the form New Zealand locks but whether Graham Henry wants to plan for now or the future could determine his decision to stay or go.

Thorn, who has a one-year contract, has been non-committal about his professional career after the Super 14.

Fellow lock Ali Williams, who also transferred to Tasman after a spat with the Blues, is an uncertain starter for next year.

Like Thorn, the All Blacks second rower has been quiet about his future after the Super 14 and may be tempted to rejoin the Blues next year if coach David Nucifora moves on and is replaced by Pat Lam.

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