All Blacks star set to return to New Zealand after stint in Japan

David Skippers
Beauden Barrett All Blacks training 2022 - PA.jpg

All Blacks utility back Beauden Barrett.

New Zealand Rugby (NZR) have revealed that they are negotiating a new deal with Beauden Barrett, which would make him available for All Blacks selection in 2024 after his stint in Japan.

Earlier this year, it was confirmed that Barrett would join Japan Rugby League One outfit Toyota Verblitz – along with fellow All Black Aaron Smith – after the 2023 Rugby World Cup but the experienced utility back is set to return to New Zealand.

NZR general manager of professional rugby and performance Chris Lendrum confirmed that the governing body and Barrett are in discussions about a potential multi-year contract.

Deal not finalised yet

“Nothing’s quite finalised, but that’s certainly the intention,” he told the New Zealand Herald. “If we end up in a position where he plays at Toyota and then is returning to New Zealand Rugby for the second half of 2024, then yes, he would be available for the All Blacks in 2024.

“That’s on the basis that he signs a multi-year contract.”

Lendrum did not specify how long the contract would be, but it is expected the deal would run through to after the 2027 Rugby World Cup in Australia.

NZR’s head of men’s high performance, Mike Anthony, said the chance to return to New Zealand is “what [Barrett] wants to do.”

“Like some of our other senior pros, it’s the chance to head away and get a sabbatical, then come back,” he added.

Barrett has been a regular in the All Blacks squad for more than 10 years after making his Test debut against Ireland in 2012. The 123-Test veteran soon established himself as one of the game’s best fly-halves and was crowned World Rugby Player of the Year in 2016 and 2017.

Under former All Blacks coach Ian Foster, the 32-year-old was most often used as a full-back, with Richie Mo’unga preferred as the starting number 10. However, Mo’unga has also left New Zealand to further his career in Japan Rugby League One with Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo.

That means Damian McKenzie will be the only one of the All Blacks’ fly-half options at the recent Rugby World Cup in France who will be playing at Super Rugby Pacific level in 2024.

Stephen Perofeta, who has made three appearances for the All Blacks, Brett Cameron and Josh Ioane, who have one Test cap apiece, are the only other fly-halves who ply their trade in New Zealand with international experience.

Anthony highlighted it as an area where NZR are hopeful of seeing some of the upcoming players begin to emerge as genuine Test options for incoming All Blacks head coach Scott Robertson.

“With Richie Mo’unga going, Beauden going on a sabbatical, Damian obviously played 10 a lot for the Chiefs, but there’s some really good young talent – Taha Kemara, Cam Millar, people like that – who are going to get an opportunity in Super Rugby,” he said.

“Tens probably, at this stage, [is] the position that certainly will be of interest through Super Rugby for Razor and his team to track.”

Codie Taylor set for a non-playing sabbatical

Meanwhile, experienced All Blacks hooker Codie Taylor has been named in the Crusaders’ squad for the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific campaign, but he is set to miss the bulk of the defending champions’ campaign to take a non-playing sabbatical.

In a statement, the Crusaders said: “He’s been away from home for an extended period recently, and the Crusaders fully respect and support him taking this time.

“Codie’s expected to be available for selection for the last few rounds of the ‘24 season.”

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