Beauden Barrett’s sabbatical with Japanese club Suntory Sungoliath will not stop him turning out for the All Blacks next year.
Barrett has signed with Suntory for one year, on a contract reportedly worth $3 million.
The move to Japan will see Barrett miss next year’s Super Rugby season with the Blues, before he returns to New Zealand for the 2021 international season.
The plan to play in Japan in 2021 is part of Barrett’s four-year deal agreed last year with New Zealand Rugby (NZR) and the Blues.
“For me it made sense to go next year and then have two years back with the Blues and hopefully the All Blacks in the lead-up to the Rugby World Cup,” Barrett said.
“My wife and I are excited to head to Japan next year. It is an appealing place for a young family and comparatively safe in health terms.”
It’s understood the deal has been negotiated between the Blues and Suntory, not New Zealand Rugby.
NZR general manager professional rugby and performance, Chris Lendrum, said Barrett’s arrangement was similar to All Blacks teammates Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock who played in Japan this year.
“That flexibility in our contracting is key,” Lendrum said.
“It allows our top players to refresh in a different rugby environment but remain committed to New Zealand Rugby which, in the long term, is great for both parties.”
Blues head coach Leon MacDonald said his coaching group had always planned without Barrett for the 2021 season.
“Our focus is fully on the current campaign but we have plans for next year without Beaudy. He will be a big loss but that is countered with what he is doing on and off the field this year, and that we get him for two more years.”
At Suntory Barrett will link up New Zealander Milton Haig who is head coach for the Tokyo-based club.