Harlequins and New Zealand Rugby strike groundbreaking agreement for All Blacks to take sabbaticals at London club

Joe Hall
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New Zealand Lima Sopoaga
Sopoaga has agreed a lucrative contract with Wasps (Source: Getty)

Harlequins have entered into an innovative partnership with New Zealand Rugby which will see All Blacks players loaned to the Premiership Rugby club.

The groundbreaking agreement will see the London club host New Zealand internationals looking to boost their earnings on a European sabbatical, before sending them back to their home country. In exchange, Quins will send young players and coaches to New Zealand.

Quins and New Zealand Rugby will also work together to exploit commercial opportunities, with the two groups sharing Adidas as a kit partner.

"The All Blacks are the benchmark of excellence," said Harlequins chief executive David Ellis.

"To be able to align with them both on and off the pitch will be of significant benefit to the club."

Read more: How the All Blacks win - New Zealand Rugby chief Steve Tew on how the World Cup champions sustain a winning culture

The deal comes at a moment in which New Zealand Rugby is struggling to stem the flow of talent to the monied clubs of Europe.

Montpellier's Aaron Cruden, Toulon's Malakai Fekitoa, La Rochelle's Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Bristol's Steve Luatua and future Wasps signing Lima Sopoaga have all in the last year traded likely spots in the All Blacks squad at next year's World Cup for the riches of Europe. Like England, New Zealand do not consider overseas-based players for selection.

Yesterday New Zealand Rugby revealed revenue of NZ$257m (£135m) but this largely owed to the exceptional circumstances of the British and Irish Lions' tour of the country last summer. England's Rugby Football Union (RFU) had revenue of £185m for the same year.

Harlequins already have a strong New Zealand connection with former All Blacks captain Sean Fitzpatrick a board member and attack coach and long-serving fly-half Nick Evans also a former international.

"This is new territory for New Zealand Rugby and this unique relationship will open some useful connections in that part of the world," said New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew.

"This alignment will create significant opportunities for both sides, with players, coaches and staff able to learn from different environments with different people, challenged and cultures."

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