New Zealand adds $70 million to player pay pool

by AAP

New Zealand Rugby has boosted its fund of top-up retainer payments used to discourage their best players from heading overseas to pursue more lucrative contracts as part of a new collective bargaining agreement.

NZR and the players' association on Wednesday announced next year's British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand was a major factor in boosting the player payment pool for the three-year CBA from 2016-18.

The pool has ballooned to NZ$191 million ($A184 million) - with player revenue-sharing retained at 36.5 per cent for "player payments, education and welfare initiatives" - up from NZ$121m ($A117 m).

Aaron Cruden is the latest All Black to be targeted by European clubs. Photo: Getty ImagesThe fund for retainer payments has been boosted from NZ$15.9m ($A15.3 m) to NZ$24.8m ($A23.89), a significant NZ$8.9m ($A8.57m) increase.

The special retainer payments have previously only been employed for established All Blacks but would be extended to include players in Super and provincial rugby, the NZR said.

Stalwarts such as Aaron Cruden, Israel Dagg and Ben Smith have all attracted big-money European offers and may be lost to Test rugby after next year.

"More money is going to go essentially into giving us a chance to retain players," NZ Rugby general manager Neil Sorensen said.

"It's a balance between retaining our top 40 players who are our superstars, our All Blacks, and also ensuring our Super clubs have top-talented kids."

The new CBA also boosts player payments in Super Rugby, the domestic provincial competition and for the national men's and women's sevens teams.

NZ's already dominant five Super Rugby teams will have more financial firepower to compete in the southern hemisphere competition, with annual contracting budgets raised to NZ$4.65m ($A4.48 m) from NZ$4m ($A3.9 m).

"In a highly competitive global market, we can't compete purely on money," NZR chief executive Steve Tew.

"For us, the difference has to be in the environment we offer and the strength of our support for players to have the lifestyle they want."

The CBA also includes additional investment in education and career training for players, including anti-doping, mental health and anti-corruption programmes.