Despite losing the services of some legendary All Blacks in 2023, New Zealand Rugby (NZR) is not concerned over the future of the team and are confident that new players will be able to maintain the three-time world champions’ high standards.
The Test careers of some of New Zealand’s best ever players came to an end when they suffered a narrow 12-11 defeat to arch rivals South Africa in this year’s Rugby World Cup final in Paris.
Legends bow out from the international arena
All Blacks legends Sam Whitelock, Aaron Smith, Brodie Retallick and Dane Coles have all bowed out from the international arena to take up offers at overseas clubs.
New Zealand will also be without the services of Richie Mo’unga and Shannon Frizell at Test level as the duo have also headed abroad although they are still young enough to return to their homeland in the future.
It means the All Blacks have lost the services of players with more than 500 Test caps of experience as new head coach Scott Robertson comes in to start his tenure in 2024.
Robertson received a boost on Monday when it was confirmed that star playmaker Beauden Barrett has signed a new deal until 2027 with NZR.
Despite that, the losses outnumber that solitary gain and Robertson comes in with a big rebuilding project on his hands.
Players leaving New Zealand to take up lucrative overseas offers is not something new. And with players unable to represent the All Blacks while they play abroad, New Zealand Rugby believes they have the right system in place at the moment and that won’t change any time soon.
Despite losing numerous experienced players, New Zealand are renowned for constantly producing a host of talented players and NZR are confident the All Blacks will continue to be a force in the international game
“We’ve got no concerns about where the team’s at, and the players that they’ll have available to them,” NZR’s general manager of professional rugby Chris Lendrum told Newshub.
“The players that are leaving, it was probably time. These are players that have played 12-14 years for the All Blacks.
“There’s always change at this time, and there’s a really strong core of leaders who’ve been through multiple World Cups, who are going to be part of the All Blacks, and obviously an exciting new group of players and management to get alongside.
“[Barrett’s] experience is important. This wouldn’t make or break the team, but it’s a great addition.”
Despite that confidence, Barrett’s recommitting to NZR is welcome as there is not much competition in the country for the All Blacks’ fly-half position.
Few options at fly-half
Mo’unga’s departure to Japan leaves a huge hole at number 10. Damian McKenzie was expected to fill that role but apart from Stephen Perofeta, there aren’t may other options available.
And although he has played mostly at full-back over the past 18 months, Barrett’s return will boost New Zealand’s fly-half stocks.
It remains to be seen who Robertson picks as his first choice number 10 but with 123 Test caps to his name Barrett’s experience will be crucial as the new generation of All Blacks build towards the 2027 World Cup in Australia.
“Beauden’s been a key part of the team’s leadership group over the last few years,” added Lendrum. “He obviously brings a wealth of experience.
“But I think [he also brings] game acumen, his ability to understand how to manage a game.
“He’s been to all the big stadiums in the world, he’s played all the big teams on numerous occasions.
“It’s far from his first rodeo. Scott, the coaching group and the new players that will come into the team next year will all get the benefit of that experience.”
Barrett, along with All Blacks skipper Sam Cane and fellow back-row Ardie Savea, will be all be eligible Test selection in 2024, after returning from a season playing in Japan.