All Blacks great Carl Hayman says rugby’s increasingly easy global movement is starting to show in the world number one side.
New Zealand and Australia have both lost players in the peaks of their careers to European competitions, most recently All Blacks flyhalf Lima Sopoaga heading to Wasps.
Hayman said the quality of the players overseas would be a interesting test for those back at home, with a host of stars making their marks in Europe.
“I think the Southern Hemisphere nations are having to work harder and harder to keep that edge, with the All Blacks that’s the case in terms of trying to keep ahead of everything else.
“The expertise and players that have been over here in Europe for some time boost the level of the competitions over here.
“It’d be interesting to see a team over here made up of players from the Southern Hemisphere playing in Europe, that’d be a pretty formidable side.”
Though the gap between the hemispheres is narrowing, a change Hayman said was shown in the British and Irish Lions series, he said the Kiwis were best-placed to keep ahead of the curve, despite the drain.
“It’s tougher and tougher within the global game, everyone’s raising the bar, especially European teams in terms of what they’re doing,” he said.
“It’ll be a huge challenge for them (the All Blacks).
“I think the thing about New Zealand rugby is the people that are involved, they’re thinking and innovating, as long as they keep that mind set for a long time now, I’m sure they’re going to be there or thereabouts.
“You can definitely see everyone’s snapping at their heels.”
With rich owners and few recruiting restrictions, France has long loomed as the key threat, but new regulations mandating at least 16 players in each Top 14 match 23 from next season could change all that.
England is already becoming an increasingly attractive destination for Australian and New Zealand players, and Pau coach Mannix foreshadowed more change to come.
“The French market will calm down even more, because we’re going to be limited with the number of foreign players,” he said.
“France needs it (foreign players), because it has 1000 full-time rugby players in the Top 14 and Pro D2 and now it’s about 600 France players and 400 foreigners.
“It’s probably created a false market, french players being overpaid because they need to hit their numbers.”
Despite the impending changes, Mannix said there was still huge value in having foreign recruits, as France searches for a balance between cultivating national talent and having a strong competition.
Pau has a host of internationals, including former Wallabies skipper Ben Mowen and former All Blacks centre Conrad Smith, and Mannix said their influence was crucial in the side’s progress since its promotion two seasons ago.
“My outlook’s different to a French outlook, all i’ve been trying to create is a marriage between cultures,” he said.
“I’m not saying I have a New Zealand or Australian model I want to reproduce, I want to produce a balance between the emotional Latin French and the more consistent (Southern Hemisphere players).
“(We’ve got) guys with more experience - former All Blacks like Conrad Smith and Colin Slade, who have a massive influence on the next generation who we’re trying to educate in that manner, and teach them what real professional rugby’s all about.”
Mannix and Hayman will be in Brisbane next month as part of Pau’s squad for the second Brisbane Tens. Buy tickets here.