French moneybags take aim at Barrett
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.”
Rieko Ioane’s extreme pace has helped him score 16 tries in his first 17 tests.