Have you noticed how UK rugby journos have gone eerily quiet on one of their once favourite default whinges - New Zealand plundering the poor pacific nations? In 2005 when the All Black star was high, you couldn’t wade through a rugby article in a British newspaper without some old hackneyed journo’s favourite beat-up coming to light.
Although the tone of these articles were often condescending to the PI players and faintly racist; rugby supporters, particularly those from the northern hemisphere happily jumped onto the bandwagon of finger pointing and judgement. People chose to ignore the fact that the majority of All Blacks who do have Pasifika heritage are either born in New Zealand or came to New Zealand at a very young age.
Since 2007 however, sweeping changes have been afoot. Sadly, the southern hemisphere has not been able to compete with the riches of old northern hemisphere club money and the exodus of players and coaches to Northern climes from all pacific islands (New Zealand included) has threatened to alter rugby as we know it here.
With a collection of ex kiwi league reps, aging and second string union players (most of them never making it playing for the national team ) plying their trade for the big bucks in the Guinness premiership, players have been snapped up and fast-tracked citizenship so that they may wear the red rose of England.(Wairarapa’s Riki Flutey as well as Dylan Hartley and Shontayne Hape come to mind).
Funnily enough, as the English team has continued to pluck a few from the pacific itself, vitriol of those once rabid northern scribes on player plundering has dried up in the last few years.
So I chuckled reading the Times today. The story of Danny Cipriani’s ineligibility to represent England as he will be playing Super rugby next year in Oz just feels to me like everything has come full circle. And I wonder if the whinging is about to start up again?