Analysis - Are New Zealand the biggest poachers of rugby talent world-wide? Some stats released this week suggest the northern hemisphere sides are worse by a country mile.
World Rugby vice-chairman Augustin Pichot sparked outrage this week after sharing what many described as a "xenophobic" list of the top international teams and the percentage of players in their squads "not born in their countries".
England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland were incensed and said the statistics were misleading. They argued a player born to New Zealand parents while in France on holiday before returning home, would be a 'foreign player' as would someone who's moved to New Zealand and been selected straight after the three year eligibility period has passed.
Both very different cases, but both were included in Pichot's percentages.
New Zealand or the All Blacks are often described as the biggest poachers of foreign talent, but they're third to last on the list, with only South Africa and Argentina, who have no "foreign born" players, below them.
Scotland head the list at 46.3 percent, with Japan second and Italy third. Australia are the only southern hemisphere team on the list in fourth, with England, Ireland, Wales and France rounding out the top eight.
Pichot's list suggests the All Blacks don't deserve their reputation as talent thieves, with that glove fitting much more snugly on the hands of the northern hemisphere sides.
In fact the All Blacks have played against New Zealanders in every one of their end of year tour matches this month.
Against Japan the All Blacks faced no less than four ex pat Kiwis in captain and former Chiefs' No.8 Michael Leitch (Christchurch), loose forward Hendrik Tui (Auckland), centre Will Tupou (Auckland) and wing Jamie Henry (Auckland).
The next week in England former Wellington and Hurricanes captain Brad Shields faced the haka, as did Rotorua born and raised hooker Dylan Hartley.
To Dublin and former Chiefs and Manurewa product Bundee Aki was lining up in the centres for Ireland, while this weekend in Rome two New Zealanders will play for Italy with former Hurricanes and Taranaki fullback Jayden Hayward and former Northland lock Dean Budd lining up for the Azzurri.
These are only the New Zealanders the All Blacks have faced on their Northern Tour this year, and represent a fraction of the kiwis to have played for Northern hemisphere sides.
In a hat tip to the ex-pat Kiwis boosting the offerings of the All Blacks northern foes, I've put together my first XV of the best and most recent New Zealanders to play for northern hemisphere sides.
What do you think? Are the better ex-pat Kiwis out there in the NH? Have I missed anyone?
Loosehead prop: Mako Vunipola, England.
- Born in Wellington to Tongan parents, he would live in New Zealand until he was nine.
- The British and Irish Lions prop dreamt of becoming an All Black and wearing the famous jersey just like his late idol, former All Blacks wing Jonah Lomu.
Hooker; Dylan Hartley, England.
- Hartley was born in Kaharoa, a rural area between Rotorua and Tauranga. He went to Rotorua Boys' High School where he began playing rugby alongside with former All Black loosie Liam Messam.
- Hartley grew up in New Zealand, but his mother was born in England meaning he qualified for them.
- He left for the UK when he was just 15, meaning he didn't complete his final year at Rotorua Boys' High.
Tighthead prop: Nathan White, Ireland.
- The 37-year-old was born in Hawera, Taranaki and went to Te Awamutu College.
- He played for Waikato, where he was captain for two years, and the Chiefs before heading to Ireland to play for Leinster and Connacht.
- He played 13 tests for Ireland from 2015-2016
Lock: Michael Broadhurst, Japan.
- Brother of former All Black James Broadhurst, Michael was born in Gisborne and played for Poverty Bay before heading to Japan.
- He's played club rugby in the land of the rising sun since 2009 and has played 26 tests for Japan since 2012.
- In 2013 Broadhurst scored a try to help Japan to their first ever victory over Wales, and he was part of their successful World Cup campaign where they beat South Africa in the first ever match between the two nations.
- Broadhurst retired from international rugby in 2015 but became a Japanese citizen in 2017 and has since returned to the national team, playing the All Blacks recently in Tokyo.
Lock: Dean Budd, Italy.
- Budd was born and raised in Whangarei and played for Northland.
- He played in Japan before moving to Italy in 2012.
- He plays for Treviso, who's head coach, New Zealander Kieran Crowley, named him as captain for the 2017-18 season.
- Wikipedia tells us he is currently living with his pet dog Due.
Blindside flanker: Brad Shields, England.
- Shields was born in Masterton to English parents (qualifying him for England) and went to Taita College in Lower Hutt, where he was deputy head boy.
- He played for the New Zealand under 20s, had 60 games for Wellington and is a Hurricanes centurion playing 100 Super Rugby games as well as captaining the side.
- He moved to England at the end of this year's Super Rugby season and was cleared by New Zealand Rugby to play for England in June against South Africa.
Openside flanker: John Hardie, Scotland.
- Born in Lumsden in Southland Hardie went to Southland Boys' High and played for Southland the Highlanders in Super Rugby.
- He played five seasons for the Highlanders before moving to the UK.
- He currently plays for Newcastle and has 16 caps for Scotland, broken up by a suspension for alleged cocaine use.
- Hardie reportedly chased down and caught a shoplifter at Edinburgh's Ocean Terminal shopping centre while playing for Edinburgh.
Number Eight: (Disclaimer: I couldn't leave either of these two out); Thomas Waldrom, England and Michael Leitch.
- "Thomas the Tank" engine Waldrom was born in Lower Hutt and went to St Pats Silverstream College in Upper Hutt with older brother and former New Zealand Sevens and Hurricanes player Scott Waldrom.
- Thomas played four seasons with the Hurricanes and one with the Crusaders and many consider him unlucky to have never earned an All Black cap.
- He quickly became a cult hero after moving to the England Premiership and played four tests for England in 2012-2013.
- Waldrom scored 16 tries during the 2014-15 English season for Exeter to end as the League's top try scorer.
- Michael Leitch was born in Christchurch to a Pakeha father and Fijian mother and grew up in the city before moving to Japan when he was 15.
- He became a Japanese citizen in 2013 and spent four Super Rugby seasons on and off with the Chiefs.
- He made his Japanese debut as a 20-year-old and was made captain in 2014 coming the second New Zealand-born player to lead the Brave Blossoms after Andrew McCormick in the 1990s.
- Leitch led Japan to "the biggest shock in Rugby World Cup history" as part of the team that defeated two-time champions South Africa in 2015.
Halfback: Isaac Boss, Ireland.
- Born in Tokoroa, an Irish grandmother qualified the Waikato product to play for Ireland.
- Boss played Super Rugby for the Hurricanes and Chiefs and could play fullback or halfback.
- He moved to Ulster in 2005 and played 22 tests for Ireland from 2006-2015.
- Boss played for Ireland at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand where they were beaten in the quarter-finals by Wales.
First-five: Gareth Anscombe, Wales.
- The son of former Auckland and Ulster coach Mark Anscombe, Gareth was born in Auckland and went to Rosmini College on the North Shore.
- He played for the Chiefs and the Blues and the New Zealand under 20s before heading to Wales in 2015 to play for Cardiff.
- He has 20 caps so far for Wales, qualifying through his Cardiff born Mum.
Wings: Brendan Laney and Sean Maitland, Scotland.
- Brendan Laney was born in Invercargill and went to Timaru Boys' High.
- A character on and off the pitch, the Otago winger was nicknamed 'Chainsaw' for the way he cut through defences and was a rare goal-kicking winger.
- He played for the Highlanders before moving to Edinburgh in 2001 and played 20 tests for Scotland from 2001-2004.
- Laney was controversially rushed straight into the Scottish national team just two days after he arrived from New Zealand.
- However, he won the fans and his team-mates over to finish 10th on Scotland's all time scorers list.
- Sean Maitland was born in Tokoroa (that's two from the Waikato town) and went to Hamilton Boys' High.
- He's the cousin of another famous Tokoroa export, the former Wallabies first-five Quade Cooper.
- He was an athletics star, recording a personal best of 11.29 and 22.30 seconds for the 100m and 200m respectively.
- Maitland is half-Scottish and is of Samoan and Maori descent from his mother's side.
- He spent 2005 and 2006 in the New Zealand Schools team and was a member of New Zealand under-19 World Cup winning side in 2007 and the New Zealand under-20 side in 2008 winning the Junior World Championship.
- He played for the Maori All Blacks and the Crusaders and moved to the UK in 2012, before being picked for Scotland in 2013.
- He's played 35 tests for Scotland so far.
Second-five: Ben Te'o, England.
- Big Ben was born in Auckland to a Pakeha mother and Samoan father.
- He was a rugby league prodigy, selected for the New Zealand Under 16s in 2003 and the 2005 Junior Kiwis.
- He also played rugby union as a junior.
- Te'o moved to Australia at the age of 17 and lived on the Gold Coast in Queensland, playing rugby league with Keebra Park State High School, before stints in the NRL with the Wests Tigers, Brisbane Broncos, South Sydney and Queensland.
- He's also played league for Samoa.
- Te'o moved to union in England in 2014 and was picked for the national side in 2016, playing 15 tests since and was part of the British and Irish Lions last year.
Centre: Bundee Aki, Ireland.
- Born in Auckland to Samoan parents, Aki went to Manurewa High School and played for Counties Manukau and the Chiefs before heading to Connacht in 2014.
- After spending three years in Ireland he qualified for the national team in 2017 and was rushed straight in by New Zealand born Ireland coach Joe Schmidt.
- He's played 11 tests including Ireland's recent historic first win on Irish soil over the All Blacks in Dublin.
Fullback: Jared Payne, Ireland.
- Payne was born in Tauranga and went to both Nelson College and Hamilton Boys' High School.
- He played for Waikato and Northland, primarily as a centre of fullback, but also on the wing.
- He also played for the New Zealand under 21 team.
- Payne played for the Chiefs, Crusaders and Blues before moving to UIster in 2011.
- He played 20 times for Ireland and was in the British and Irish Lions squad that drew their 3-test series with the All Blacks in New Zealand last year.
- He retired recently due to concussion.