The cooperation agreement will see the national union strategically linked with the London-based club both on the field and behind the scenes.
NZR chief executive Steve Tew said: “This is new territory for New Zealand Rugby and this unique relationship will open some useful connections in that part of the world. With its strong ex-pat community, London is of key strategic importance to New Zealand Rugby, and when you factor in our shared relationship with Adidas, this cooperation agreement is a very natural fit.
“This alignment will create significant opportunities for both sides, with players, coaches and staff able to learn from different environments with different people, challenges and cultures.”
The agreement comes with NZR under increasing pressure to retain players in its system, amid the lure of greater financial rewards in Northern Hemisphere rugby. NZR yesterday (Thursday) posted a record profit of NZ$33.4m (€19.8m/$24.1m) for the 2017 financial year, but this figure owed much to the British and Irish Lions’ tour of the country last summer.
NZR said the 10-match tour was the “driving force” behind a record NZ$224m investment in rugby union across New Zealand. The series generated an incremental profit of NZ$40m compared to a normal year when New Zealand plays a regular three-match series.
NZR works to a five-year rolling financial projection, and the body noted that it needs to balance profits with the requirement to future-proof the sport in the country. Last year’s income stood at NZ$257m, compared to NZ$162m in 2016.
Harlequins include New Zealanders such as Francis Saili (pictured) and Mat Luamanu in its playing squad. Chief executive David Ellis said: “The All Blacks are the benchmark of excellence for all teams, so to be able to align with them both on and off the pitch will be of significant benefit to the club.”