With the lure of playing in a World Cup tournament on home soil stronger than ever, a number of All Blacks are eyeing a return to New Zealand after the completion of their current stints in Europe.
Numerous media reports in recent days have listed at least two prominent England-based All Blacks – Leicester Tigers’ Aaron Mauger and Carl Hayman, the Newcastle Falcons captain – as “keen” to return home after their contracts expire in May this year.
Newstalk ZB in New Zealand reports that discussions have begun with the New Zealand Rugby Union, who is hoping to get Mauger and Hayman back to New Zealand in 2010 – ahead of the 2011 World Cup.
Both Mauger and Hayman were reportedly approached by All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith during the Kiwis’ year-end tour in November.
The former All Blacks both come off contract at their English clubs at the end of the current European season and General Manager of Professional Rugby in New Zealand Neil Sorensen told reporters that the process to bring them home has started.
According to Sorensen whilst they have not got as far as offering them contracts, both players are considering a return to New Zealand this year and could be back home before the start of this year’s Air New Zealand Cup.
The official NZRU website, allblacks.com, also reports on the imminent return of Hayman and Mauger.
Newcastle clearly value Hayman’s services and the Kiwi website suggests Falcons Director of Rugby Steve Bates may “break the bank” to try and keep his club captain.
Mauger, who captained the Tigers to victory (16-11) against the touring Springboks in November, has made no secret that he wishes to return to New Zealand shores.
The former Canterbury, Crusaders and All Blacks midfielder is exploring his options, and it is said he wishes to return home to raise his young family.
English papers have also been speculating in recent weeks and the conclusions are beginning to reach a fever pitch.
Leicester Tigers head coach Richard Cockerill has been quoted as saying Mauger was still “undecided”, but he would not be surprised if he returned home.
“The temptation must be to go because he missed out on being selected for the last World Cup. Since he joined us the All Blacks have probably missed him more than they thought they would,” Cockerill is quoted as having said, according to allblacks.com.
Leicester Tigers Chief Executive Peter Wheeler has not confirmed the reports.
“As far as I’m aware he is still thinking about his future,” Wheeler was quoted as saying on the same website.
“We are in consultation with him. Because people know his contract runs out at the end of this season, they are looking to see what happens to him.”
Mauger has had injury concerns with the Tigers, but Wheeler and Cockerill clearly value his input.
“He is a quality guy. He has had some difficulties in the last year around his pelvis, lower back and hamstrings.
“But we look a much better side when he plays.”Tweet