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NZ Rugby hopes for more contract renewals

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 22/12/2016 Angelo Risso

The re-signing of Owen Franks is step one on All Blacks boss Steve Hansen's quest to keep the band together through to 2019.

Franks, 29, is likely to become the most-capped Kiwi prop in history after penning a new deal on Thursday to stay on the Shaky Isles until the 2019 World Cup.

But New Zealand Rugby's work doesn't end there, with a number of stalwarts coming off contract throughout 2017, including skipper Kieran Read.

Read, 31, was reported to have become Kiwi rugby's first million-dollar man last week as a benefactor of the union's new collective agreement.

NZ Rugby has put aside almost $25 million in additional funding between 2016 and 2018 to prevent players such as Read chasing the big bucks offshore.

Yet despite the new funding and increased wages, the union remains unable to compete with the mega-dollars on offer in places like Ireland and France.

A trio of senior All Blacks in Ben Smith, Israel Dagg and Aaron Cruden have all fielded lucrative offers from Europe and may depart for greener pastures next year.

Hansen nevertheless anticipated that Read and Crusaders lock Sam Whitelock would soon sign on the dotted line as senior All Blacks and leaders.

They would be keen to secure an unprecedented third consecutive World Cup crown.

"I guess you'd want your captain to re-sign, reading the paper the other day, I can't see why he wouldn't, you've all said he's the million-dollar man," Hansen told reporters.

"Those types of challenges inspire players to want to stay, so hopefully we have everyone sign up."

Hansen also echoed the sentiments of NZ Rugby boss Steve Tew last week, throwing his support behind the idea of a sabbatical for Read in 2018.

The breaks enjoyed by former stars Richie McCaw and Dan Carter had kept the pair fresh to wreak havoc in key moments.

"You go back and the word sabbatical was a nasty one," Hansen said.

"If it keeps them in New Zealand and makes them available to play these big Test matches and tournaments to the standard they did, why wouldn't you?"

The All Blacks, having just finished their November northern tour, will reconvene in New Zealand in January for a pre-Lions conditioning and wellness camp.

The players will be put through their paces physically and be told where to improve before the Lions come to town in June.

"It's so we can turn around to the franchises and say, this is the nick they're in, and this is where we need them to get to," Hansen said.

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