New Zealand rugby boss Steve Tew believes future All Blacks are being plundered by overseas clubs, both union and league at schoolboy level.
Tew is warning that kiwi players as young as 15 are being targeted in what he called an unprecedented threat to the country's playing stocks and as Joe Porter writes, it's not just men who are being targeted.
New Zealand schoolboy rugby competitions have been the happy hunting grounds of Australia's National Rugby League clubs for many years, but New Zealand Rugby (NZR) chief executive, Steve Tew, said others are now entering the race to sign the country's most talented teenagers.
"Scouts from a range of codes not just rugby in Europe and Japan but we've seen American football codes have a look around and the NRL is pretty busy here as well. We've got to make sure we're not getting to the point where children and their parents aren't forced to make decisions too early when they don't understand the consequences," Tew said.
Player agent Simon Porter said league clubs have been snapping up players that young for over a decade, and while he hasn't seen any 15-year-old's being signed by overseas rugby clubs, he said it's trending that way.
"You'd be amazed at how many young men have already committed their futures to Australian rugby league clubs at the age of 15 or 16, but not so much rugby union. There's definitely a shift to go younger, probably not schoolboy kids, although it has happened, but the interest is getting younger and younger that's absolutely bang on."
And with players having to be based in Aotearoa to play for the All Blacks, Porter can see why non-international New Zealanders are in such demand.
"There's no doubt that clubs are realising that if they can get someone like a James Lowe (former Maori All Blacks, Chiefs and Tasman wing who now plays for Irish club Leinster) or someone like that, they'll get the best five years of his career, where they're not worried about international rugby. He's not going away on international breaks and they (overseas clubs) get the best out of it, that's why New Zealand players are so expensive or so desired."
Porter says while lawyers will debate the legality of contracts signed by 15-year-olds, in his opinion, it's unethical.
"I personally don't think kids of 15 should be signing anything. Union teams they put money into grass roots development stuff, they're just not signing guys that young, and nor should they to be fair," Porter said.
However Kelston Boys High Schools Sport & Business Manager, former Warriors and Kiwis star Duane Mann, said rugby players and athletes as young as 11 are already being scouted by sports schools around the country.
"First XV coaches and directors of sport will often be at the AIMS Games, which is for years seven and eight and intermediate and it's the biggest sporting games for that age group in Australasia. They go to see the next big 11 or 12 year old and they offering them scholarships to come to their schools. When people get angry about 15-year-olds signing well it's happening a bit younger that that."
And Mann believes there's evidence of Japanese rugby clubs scouting at Auckland 1st XV games.
Porter doubts 15-year-olds are being approached by Japanese clubs, but he said school leavers certainly are.
"Japan have completely changed their overseas player structure to focus on uncapped players who can become eligible for Japan."
Porter said it's not just the men's game being raided.
"It was something like, already this year 18 girls have gone to American universities. When you think about the player base of rugby in New Zealand in the women's space, that's a massive number of talented individuals leaving the country when the player base is pretty small already."
Tew is now exploring the possibility of opening relationships with certain foreign clubs where New Zealand Rugby would send players for sabbaticals.
NZR is facing an increasing array of threats to its player pool, and how it adapts, will likely have a direct influence on how the All Blacks perform.