Dan Carter is mystified by reports he and Richie McCaw could soon be playing in Italy.
Reports in Europe have stated the All Blacks stars are being wooed to the Benetton Treviso club on lucrative five-month contracts.
Carter said it was news to him, saying the first he heard about the deal was when he and McCaw were approached by Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder.
"I have no idea where that has come from," Carter said. "Toddy told us the other day and we just had to laugh. It was the first I had heard about it."
Italian newspapers have stated Carter and McCaw are being targeted to head to Italy after the All Blacks' northern tour has been completed and could be rewarded with packages worth up to $1.62 million each. The Benetton club is owned by a multinational clothing company.
Blackadder became aware of the reports when contacted by a northern hemisphere journalist last week.
"It is all crap. I have had these reports coming to me, too. The guys know nothing about it. God knows where it has come from."
Although McCaw and Carter have signed deals with the New Zealand Rugby Union that stretch through to the 2015 World Cup, their contracts have clauses inserted that allow them to enjoy lucrative offshore sabbaticals.
Carter has activated this option in the past. He missed the Crusaders' 2009 Super campaign to play for French club Perpignan, but only played a few games before snapping his Achilles tendon.
Injured All Blacks captain McCaw, who hopes to make his 2012 debut for the Crusaders in mid-April after they return from their two-match tour of South Africa, has previously indicated he has had little desire to play outside New Zealand – despite acknowledging he has a sabbatical clause locked into his NZRU contract.
If the two All Blacks stars did sign for the Italian club, which plays in the Rabo Direct Pro 12 competition that was previously known as the Celtic League, they would be forced to miss the majority of the Super season.
A spokesman from the Essentially Group, the firm that manages Carter and McCaw, also denied the reports.
The management company has been involved in other deals involving the pair, including a rugby website which has Graham Henry and Wayne Smith listed as majority shareholders.
Meanwhile, Carter said he was content to survive 40 minutes in Saturday night's 28-21 win over the Cheetahs after making his first appearance in almost six months after his groin injury at the Rugby World Cup.
"There were a few nerves that crept in because I hadn't played for so long and I was quite underprepared. But once you get on the field your instincts just take over."
He was unsure if he would start against the Lions in Johannesburg next weekend.