All Blacks Add Spice to European Champions Cup
New Zealand’s All Black stars are the big prizes in rugby’s global talent pool, particularly only a few months after winning a second consecutive World Cup, the New York Times reports. Like Ma’a Nonu, who plays for Toulon, they tend to wind up in France, which offers the biggest money along with the experience of a new language and culture.
Thirteen New Zealanders have won the Champions Cup – until 2014 known as the Heineken Cup, all but three of them in the last seven years. And no French club without a New Zealander has won the trophy since Toulouse in 2003. Both records could be extended this year.
Midfield playmaker and all-time world record international points scorer Daniel Carter has already made the playoffs with Racing 92.
Carter has successfully kicked 17 out of 18 goals, and is also doing fine off the field, taking French lessons and joking about the inability of teammate Chris Masoe, a former All Blacks back-row forward who has played in France since 2008, to master the language. Another All Blacks veteran, the winger Joe Rokocoko, impressed club officials after his first training session with Racing by staying on to help junior players with practice.
“[Carter] allows players to play off him and his organisation – you could just hear him talking – he’s a huge asset to any team,” said Ken Owens, captain of the Welsh team Scarlets after losing 64-14 away to Racing, which he called the best team in Europe. “He’s the best player in the world, and it shows.”
The French do not have a monopoly on New Zealand talent. It has also aided the two surprise contenders, Wasps and the Welsh franchise Ospreys. Both are well placed to make the playoffs this weekend. The Wasps’ All Blacks winger Charles Piutau has gained more ground, about 500 yards, and made more clean line breaks, 10, than any other player in the tournament.
Original article by Huw Richards, The New York Times, January 22, 2016.
Photo by AP.