New Zealand have moved to address the startling flight of their All Blacks by striking a deal with Harlequins, which sees the English side become an official partner.
The Times have broken the news of the partnership, under which 'Quins will be the preferred destination for New Zealand players wishing to spend a money-spinning, sabbatical year in Europe.
It's a no-brainer for Quins. It means they will be able to sign top-level internationals they hitherto haven't been able to afford - they've missed out on Kurtley Beale to Wasps and Charles Piutau to Ulster and Bristol, for example. Also, they haven't needed permission from the RFU to do this, and although they appear to be directly helping England's biggest international rival, it isn't expected that they'll miss out on any funding from the English Union.
For the All Blacks, this gives them slightly more control over their fleeing stars, meaning it is likely that more of their top-line players will be kept at home in the latter half of the four-year World Cup cycle. New Zealand have lost a host of All Blacks to the riches of England and France lately, with Malaki Fekitoa, Steven Luatua, Lima Sopoaga, Jerome Kaino, Liam Messam and Charlie Ngatai among them.
Why have they picked Quins as the winners of the lottery? There is a New Zealand link already there: Nick Evans is attacking coach, while Sean Fitzpatrick is a non-executive director at the club.
There is. of course, a commercial aspect to the deal, as the Times elucidates.
New Zealand has identified Harlequins because that gives it a “strategic” base in London and they share a kit manufacturer in Adidas, which the club hope will generate commercial benefits down the line. Harlequins are looking to boost their commercial profile as they start working towards the planned construction of a 25,000-seat stadium.