Loyalty to your club and loyalty to your country is something that is highly valued in the New Zealand rugby system but it seems that sometimes people forget that loyalty is a two-way street.
The recent comments from All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen labeling Pat Lam as an “ex-New Zealander” was met with a defensive response from Lam, who questioned why he was being singled out. When Lam joins Bristol next season he will be joined by All Black Steven Luatua, which is a move that has caused the unexpected outburst from Hansen who is obviously frustrated at the loss of yet another young New Zealand rugby talent.
The exact opposite reaction was given once the decision from Israel Dagg to remain in New Zealand was announced earlier this month, meaning he will stay to compete for a spot in the highly contested All Blacks back three leading into the next World Cup.
Although Dagg has been playing some excellent rugby in recent times there was not much sympathy for him when he was denied a spot in the last world cup squad. The dilemma for Dagg must surely be that he is right now capable of demanding what will probably be the highest earnings of his career and if he misses out on selection again in Japan, which is realistically a likely possibility I wonder if he will regret his decision.
All Blacks selection is, of course, no guarantee, as he learned in the lead up to the 2015 World Cup, but nothing other than 100 percent loyalty to New Zealand rugby is what is expected if you want to be considered.
Another player that learned this lesson was Charlie Piutau, a young All Black who was in red hot form leading up to the last World Cup but who was then also excluded from the squad once the details of his move to the Northern hemisphere were announced. What will be interesting to watch is whether he will be considered for All Black selection after his contract with Ulster expires, if and when he decides to return to New Zealand.
Apparently, the only reasonable decision to leave New Zealand in the eyes of the All Blacks selectors is once you have given your best rugby and have now earned the right to maximise your earning potential as a player.
A move to Europe in the way that players like Dan Carter and Ma’a Nonu managed to complete seems to be the only way to cash in on their talents as a player and maintain undisputed respect with the New Zealand rugby community.
The thing with the situation with Pat Lam is that he didn’t leave the NZ system by choice, like so many players have done, he was fired by the NZRU. Surely you can’t fairly label someone an ex-New Zealander simply because he’s trying to continue his career when he is unable to do so at home.
If Hansen however insists on standing by his comments and logic I wonder how the New Zealand rugby public would feel about him labeling someone like Dan Carter as an ex-New Zealander?