Sacré bleu

French mon­ey­bags take aim at Barrett

Weekend Herald - - Sport - Pa­trick McKendry in Wellington

All Blacks star first-five Beau­den Barrett has re­port­edly been made an of­fer to be­come the rich­est rugby player in his­tory.

Ac­cord­ing to re­spected French news­pa­per L’Equipe, French club Lyon have made an au­da­cious bid for World Rugby’s back-to-back Player of the Year.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, Barrett tops the wish­list of more than one wealthy club in the Top 14 as they eye a po­ten­tial tal­ent in­flux fol­low­ing the 2019 World Cup in Ja­pan — with Lyon ready to smash All Black great Dan Carter’s world record salary.

Carter is be­lieved to have earned €1.4 mil­lion ($2.48m) a year for his near three sea­sons with Parisian club Rac­ing 92.

Barrett is world rugby’s most sought-after All Black and, ac­cord­ing to L’Equipe, has re­ceived a big-money of­fer from Lyon for his ser­vices postWorld Cup, while Stade Fran­cais, Mont­pel­lier and Rac­ing are also said to be in the mar­ket for the Kiwi star.

L’Equipe said Lyon had tabled a €1.5m-a-sea­son ($2.6m) of­fer to se­cure Barrett’s ser­vices and claimed the size of the po­ten­tial deal had forced him to think hard on it, rather than dis­miss it out of hand.

This week, for­mer All Black fiveeighths Lima Sopoaga warned that New Zealand’s global rugby dom­i­nance was at risk.

The High­lander who moved to British club Wasps this sea­son warned of a grow­ing ex­o­dus of play­ers in their prime, who are mak­ing “busi­ness de­ci­sions” to seek their for­tunes in Europe, re­ported the Daily Mail.

For years, New Zealand have man­aged to hold on to the bulk of their lead­ing lights by re­fus­ing to pick play­ers based abroad.

The al­lure of the black jersey guarded against a mass mi­gra­tion but Sopoaga be­lieved oth­ers are ready to give their best years to clubs of­fer­ing lu­cra­tive con­tracts in the North­ern Hemi­sphere.

“I do think things are start­ing to change and play­ers are start­ing to wise up,” said the 27-year-old.

“They re­alise that it’s a busi­ness th­ese days. When you’ve got it, you’ve got it, but when you don’t, clubs aren’t go­ing to be afraid to cut you.

“For play­ers th­ese days, a lot of us are start­ing to talk to each other more and talk about ex­pe­ri­ences and about how we can ben­e­fit from the game, be­cause it is a busi­ness and it can be pretty cut-throat.

“That’s the way it is. Play­ers are start­ing to wise up to that.”

Un­til now, the trend has been for Kiwi veter­ans to head north in search of a last big con­tract be­fore re­tir­ing but Sopoaga be­lieves that more 20-some­things are con­sid­er­ing that ca­reer-defin­ing step.

“I think it is a pat­tern. For a lot of guys like my­self, who come from big fam­i­lies, from low so­cio-eco­nomic back­grounds, the chance to change your fam­ily’s life is pretty over­whelm­ing. It’s not some­thing you should take lightly.

“Some­times the jersey is not enough for a bet­ter life.

“It is spe­cial when you do get it, the ex­pe­ri­ences you do have are pretty sur­real, but down the track, those things don’t pay for a roof over your head,” he said.

Plenty of quick men have played for the All Blacks over the years — wings such as Joe Roko­coko, Si­tiveni Si­vi­vatu and Doug Howlett scorched across pitches around the world and had try-scor­ing records to match — but in­cum­bent left wing Rieko Ioane may be the quick­est of all.

Ioane qual­i­fies as one of the quick­est rugby play­ers in the world to­day. The 21-year-old has scored 16 tries in 17 tests and, after miss­ing two tests fol­low­ing his strained ham­string (the first time he has suf­fered such an in­jury) while play­ing the Wal­la­bies in Sydney, he is back to take on the Spring­boks in Wellington where he will again be at the short­est of odds to score the test’s first try.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen re­vealed Ioane has hit speeds up to

37km/h in test­ing, a pace many peo­ple would strug­gle to match on a bi­cy­cle.

That com­pares well with renowned rugby speed­sters Car­lin Isles of the United States, a for­mer track sprinter who has been un­of­fi­cially clocked at 36km/h in a sev­ens match, and Fi­jian sev­ens star Alo­sio Naduva, who has hit a sim­i­lar top speed.

“I’ve been call­ing him 80 Per Cent for the last cou­ple of weeks be­cause we didn’t want him run­ning any faster than that,” Hansen said of his and trainer Nic Gill’s de­sire to pro­tect Ioane’s ham­string. “Gilly has timed him and he’s run­ning 35-37km/h, so he’s back to 100.”

Usain Bolt, the 100m world record holder with a time of 9.58s set at the

2009 world cham­pi­onships in Berlin, reached a top speed of 44.72km/h be­tween 60m and 80m in that race. He cov­ered the dis­tance at an av­er­age of 37.58km/h.

Hansen didn’t re­veal any other de­tails about Ioane’s pace and the man him­self was re­luc­tant to di­vulge too much — prob­a­bly out of mod­esty more than any­thing — but his top speed was prob­a­bly set in a 40m sprint, now re­garded as a stan­dard rugby speed test.

Ioane said: “We have heaps of quick boys in our team with Waisake [Na­holo] and Baz [Beau­den Barrett], and even Crotts [Ryan Crotty, sit­ting along­side him as he spoke] is up there th­ese days. Ev­ery­one is up around there. If I’m faster than all the for­wards, then I’m happy.”

Ioane’s abil­ity to reach top speed quickly and main­tain it sets him apart from many other play­ers. The stand­outs among his many mem­o­rable tries are his score for the Blues against the British and Ir­ish Lions when he re­ceived Stephen Pero­feta’s long pass and was gone in a flash, stand­ing up Is­rael Fo­lau in Sydney last year and his in­ter­cept against South Africa at New­lands a few weeks later.

He can score tries oth­ers can’t be­cause he needs only a few me­tres to go past or through the de­fence, and when you add in his side­step and im­proved power and fend, it makes him a dan­ger­ous at­tack­ing threat.

“I felt pretty com­fort­able last week with how it was go­ing,” Ioane said of his re­cov­ery and miss­ing the Bledis­loe Cup test at Eden Park and last week’s match against the Pu­mas in Nel­son. “I could have played last week. Steve and the med­i­cal staff know best and they gave me an­other week’s rest, which has made me feel a lot bet­ter com­ing into this one.”

Asked what train­ing at only 80 per cent was like, he said: “It’s all pretty easy — it makes train­ing eas­ier if you don’t go full-out.”

Roko­coko, who scored 46 tries in 68 tests, was quick. So was Si­vi­vatu, who scored 33 in 48 tests, and Howlett, who holds the All Blacks’ tryscor­ing record with 49 in 62 tests. Other no­table speed­sters con­nected with New Zealand rugby in­clude for­mer Chiefs player Sosene Anesi, who played one test in 2005, and for­mer North­land and Blues wing Ru­peni Cau­cau­nibuca, who scored 10 tries in eight tests for Fiji. For­mer Chiefs wing Toni Pulu, who is head­ing for the Brumbies, is said to be one of the quick­est in Su­per Rugby.

And the Boks have a speed­ster of their own: Lions wing Aphiwe Dyan­tyi, a man who won’t be mark­ing Ioane (Jesse Kriel, nor­mally a mid­fielder, has that duty), will be at­tempt­ing to make life dif­fi­cult for All Blacks right wing Ben Smith.

“Ob­vi­ously he’s had a stand­out sea­son,” Ioane said. “I’ve watched a cou­ple of his high­lights . . . he’s a real threat on at­tack.”

Photo / Getty Im­ages

Photo / Pho­to­sport

Rieko Ioane’s ex­treme pace has helped him score 16 tries in his first 17 tests.

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