Glasgow Warriors: Veteran Corey Flynn still chasing fulfilment

By Jamie LyallBBC Scotland
Corey Flynn
Corey Flynn has signed for Glasgow Warriors from Toulouse in the French top-flight

This feels like a seminal age in the tempestuous domain of European rugby.

The financial behemoths prowling the leagues of England and France are on a seemingly inexorable rise, hoovering up the galacticos of the southern hemisphere.

Theirs is a monetary clout Scottish rugby cannot hope to match.

From Edinburgh, Dave Denton has gone to Bath, Greig Tonks to London Irish. Captain Mike Coman will follow, so too Matt Scott to Gloucester at the season's end. There may be others.

Along the M8, speculation continues to heighten on the future of Fijian sensation Leone Nakarawa - reportedly heading for Racing 92 with a year left on his contract - and Taqele Naiyaravoro, the monstrous winger, returning to the Waratahs of Australia.

A shrewd acquisition

Amidst this leakage of talent, though, the Warriors have, rather shrewdly, recruited an ex-Crusaders hooker, a four-time Super Rugby champion, 15-Test All Black and Rugby World Cup winner.

Corey Flynn joins Gregor Townsend's squad on a two-year deal this summer following a sojourn at Toulouse, one of the most storied and wealthy of the French heavyweights.

Corey Flynn scores for New Zealand
Corey Flynn won 15 New Zealand caps, never losing a Test

"Some of these club owners have got a lot of money - the rugby clubs are just a plaything for them," says Flynn of his two-season paddle in the volatile waters of the Top 14.

"They're not worried about spending money.

"It's not a good thing for French rugby as a whole. I've been talking with a couple of the French boys; they're a little bit annoyed because they're not just targeting the big stars of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.

"They're targeting the younger ones so they can get them in at an early age, have them in the academy for three years, then they're regarded as French-qualified, not foreign players any more.

"That's a bad thing because they're not nurturing their own talent - which they have an abundance of. But until you get a centrally controlled system you're never going to get that because the private owners just want to win.

"They want to spend money to win competitions and they don't really care about the national team or the state of French rugby, which is a shame."

Been there, done that

Flynn has seen and done a great deal in some 15 years of professional rugby.

Kieran Read, Dan Carter, Corey Flynn
Flynn, right, played alongside All Blacks greats Kieran Read and Dan Carter

He battled shoulder to shoulder, season after season, with the world's best. Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Kieran Read - they were his pals along the way.

Flynn is 35 now - he made his Crusaders debut five days before Scotland forward Jonny Gray celebrated his eighth birthday - old enough perhaps to prompt some dissenting murmurs down Scotstoun way.

He's a wizened Kiwi hooker with five broken arms on his medical record, while among the Warriors ranks are Fraser Brown, Pat MacArthur, Kevin Bryce, the burgeoning James Malcolm and more.

Flynn though is a beacon of durability in a sport of growing tumult and physical peril.

He played 31 games for Toulouse last season - including two against his new side - starting 30, hot on the heels of a run to the 2014 Super Rugby final.

That's well over 1,600 minutes of rugby - there's plenty life in the old warhorse yet.

Corey Flynn
Corey Flynn played twice against his new club in last season's European Champions Cup

"When I spoke to Gregor, he asked me if I still had the desire to play, which is a big yes," he says.

"Having been in France for two years after a fairly intense, structured outfit in the Crusaders, it turned out I wasn't ready just to cruise, show up and play rugby. I'm not ready to finish like that.

"What gives me satisfaction isn't just strapping on my boots and playing, it's being involved in decisions and the way a team runs.

"I still want to use my brain; I still want to engage mentally into an environment.

"Gregor also asked about the mentoring role, and I'm not naïve in thinking I can play forever, so I realise that half of my appeal is the experiences I've been through and the ability to pass on those to the younger guys.

"You're only ever really a caretaker of a jersey - it's about when you leave, you leave the jersey in a better position, you know?"

Advice from mate to Maitland

Corey Flynn and Sean Maitland
Flynn spoke with of ex-Warriors back, and former Crusaders team-mate Sean Maitland

Flynn sought the counsel of his old mate Sean Maitland before committing to the move north. The testimonial was brief but affirming.

"All he said was there's a great bunch of boys that love to work for each other," he says. "There was nothing more he had to say there.

"I'm of the understanding we're going to get a new pitch for next year. Glasgow like to play a running style of footy, which is exciting.

"The pitch will allow us to play some good rugby all year round."

The end, Flynn acknowledges, is an awful lot closer than the start. These might be his final line-out throws and midfield rumbles, but on and off that new Scotstoun surface so hotly-anticipated, his influence should still prove significant.