McAlister still weighing up move back to NZ

Former All Black back Luke McAlister says that he is undecided whether he should stay in England playing for Sale Sharks or move back to New Zealand in order to win back his All Black place for the World cup.

McAlister hopes to have made the decision by early next year but for now he is leaving his options open.

The former All Black spent most of his youth living in Manchester as from the age of four to 13 his father played rugby league for various teams in England.

His family then moved back to New Zealand where McAlister was born but around the middle of last year he announced that he had signed for the Sharks.

That contract ends at the end of this season and given his form Sale would are interested in keeping at the club and are expected to offer him an extension estimated to be worth over NZ $1million before the end of the month.

McAlister says he’s in somewhat of a quandary as he weighs his options, though his close relationship with All Blacks backs coach Wayne Smith could be a key element in the decision-making process.

“I’m leaving all my options open,” McAlister told the Daily Mail newspaper.

“I haven’t committed to New Zealand and I haven’t committed to staying here. I’m still in the process of making the decision.

“It depends what I want to do, whether I want to stay and make a career here and not go home for the World Cup in 2011. That’s something I have to weigh up.”

“I have a little girl back home (four-year-old daughter Astyn) and that would be a big factor but I left New Zealand because that’s what I wanted to do and no one was going to stop me. I don’t look back in regret.”

McAlister has won 22 All Black caps and was one of their most promising players.

“It’s going to be a very tough decision. I’ll make it in January or February because I don’t want to muck Sale around or New Zealand.”

All Blacks coach Graham Henry who always likes to have a jibe at anything in English Rugby questioned whether McAlister’s game was being helped by his stint in England.

“I think his trip will be good for him as an individual and when he returns to these islands he’ll be a well-rounded person, but I don’t know if he’s going to be a better rugby player,” Henry said.

“There’s big talk that he’s going to come back reasonably soon, but there’s no guarantee he’s going to return to the All Blacks. To do that, he has to be good enough.”

McAlister responded and told The Independent newspaper he had no problems with Henry’s comments.

“There are some people back home playing good rugby in my position,” he said.

“I agree completely with the view that I’d have to prove myself all over again from a place down the ladder.”

But Sale officials were clearly riled by Henry’s remarks.

“It’s a bit arrogant and a bit rude to say that,” head coach Kingsley Jones told The Mail.

“It’s also an insult to our coaching. Luke is in fantastic form as he showed in France last week (when he starred in a big win over Clermont-Auvergne).

“He’s really settled in this season, he’s feeling much more at home and proving he is one of the best players in the world.”

McAlister agrees and says that his experience in Manchester has been a rewarding one.

“The old stereotypes – lots of kicking, lots of chasing, shitty conditions, rubbish fields – aren’t relevant any longer. I think this experience is improving me as a player, as well as improving me as a person.

“I think more All Blacks will move to Europe after the next World Cup.”

“The New Zealand union won’t change the eligibility rules – the test team will be picked from those playing inside the country, which is only right – but you get one shot at a sporting career, and you have to make the call that suits you.”

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