All Blacks: Veteran duo Beauden Barrett and Aaron Smith sign for Toyota Verblitz
Veteran half-back duo Beauden Barrett and Aaron Smith have both signed for Toyota Verblitz and will join the Japanese club after the Rugby World Cup.
The news was confirmed on Tuesday as Smith inked a long-term deal, but Barrett may return to New Zealand in 2025.
Resource drain continues
Barrett and Smith added their names to an ever-growing list of All Blacks set to ply their trade in Japan after the World Cup, with Brodie Retallick, Richie Mo’unga and Ardie Savea making the move as well.
The fly-half is delighted he could continue his career with Smith and says he will re-evaluate his playing future later on.
“I’m looking forward to taking up this opportunity with Toyota alongside a good friend and long-term team-mate in Aaron,” Barrett said in a statement.
“My agent, Warren Alcock, is in communication and negotiation with New Zealand Rugby, the Blues and Toyota about my future beyond the Japan One 2024 season. I want to give myself time to ensure I make the right decision and once I gain clarity on that I will be able to give an update on what my future looks like beyond 2024.”
Smith has only played for Highlanders and Manawatu during his career and is grateful for everything the club has given him over 13 years.
“From the time I signed my first contract in 2008 until now, I have been living my dream,” the scrum-half said in a statement.
“I have been blessed to represent my home with the Manawatū Turbos, who helped me chase my dream of being a Super Rugby player.
“I have to say a big thanks to the Highlanders for believing in me. I have done it all with that team, and they have always been there for me. Thank you to every Highlanders player, staff member and fan. You have given me everything and more in the 13 years we have had together.”
One of the greatest
Highlanders boss Roger Clark hailed Smith as one of the greatest in the club’s history and admits it is a significant loss.
“You look at Aaron and you think, this guy could go on forever. I know we and every Highlanders fan would want him to,” he said.
“Unfortunately, that is not a reality in professional rugby and the time has come to say thank you, good luck, and goodbye. That will not be easy for us, our fans or Aaron. He is such a massive part of the Highlanders story, our most-capped player and surely one of our best ever.”
Manawatu boss Andrea Jackson echoed Clark’s sentiments and praised the legendary All Black for his service to the jersey.
“Aaron’s commitment and dedication to Manawatu has been unquestionable,” Jackson said.
“That has been made even more clear in recent seasons when he has donned the famous green and white jersey in between his All Blacks duties, in 2020 and 2021.
“We wish Aaron and his whanau all the best for their next adventure, and we hope to see him back one day to bring up his 50th match for Manawatu.”
Toyota Verblitz are coached by former All Blacks boss Steve Hansen and have Springboks Willie Le Roux and Pieter-Steph du Toit on their payroll.
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