Cape Town – Japan is reportedly emerging as a possible short-term destination for Beauden Barrett and other senior All Blacks after next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.
There has been lots of speculation about Barrett’s future and a possible move out of New Zealand after the World Cup, with his management team continuing to negotiate options beyond the 2019 global tournament.
These include the potential of earning €1.4million (NZ$ 2.4m) per-season at a Top 14 club, with Parisian outfit Racing 92 said to be heading the list of suitors from France.
The All Blacks still remain a priority for the two-time World Player of the Year and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo is also a possibility. Which means Barrett may decide to remain in New Zealand. But with large amounts of money on offer and the fact he can essentially name his price overseas, a sabbatical seems increasingly likely.
And if Barrett decide to take that option, the prospect of taking a year out to play two Japanese Top League seasons in 2020 could prove enticing.
Barrett is not the only All Black who could go down that route though. All Blacks second-row duo Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock are among others believed to be considering that option, if it comes to fruition.
“That concept of Japan 2020 comes up in a number of conversations,” New Zealand Rugby head of professional rugby Chris Lendrum told the New Zealand Weekend Herald.
“It’s not necessarily a real prospect for everybody.”
Japan must still finalise its season structure beyond 2019 but the World Cup, which starts in September in Tokyo, has forced the 2019/20 domestic tournament to be pushed back to January 2020.
This is similar move to New Zealand, who shifted its provincial season when hosting the 2011 World Cup.
Japanese rugby tends to move at its own pace but if negotiations progress towards the two-seasons-in-one, it could be enough to entice Barrett and his fellow All Blacks.
If Barrett decides to head to Japan, it would allow him to experience the best of both worlds.
He would be free to commit to a new long-term contract with New Zealand Rugby and the Hurricanes but first take leave – as Dan Carter and Richie McCaw previously enjoyed – before returning to play for the All Blacks and have a crack at the 2023 World Cup in France.
“Generally what we understand is they are looking to run two Top League seasons during 2020 but that’s not confirmed,” added Lendrum.
“If they do it seems like there is an opportunity for players to go there and play those two seasons effectively in the space of one New Zealand calendar year.
“From a salary and welfare perspective that has obvious attraction for players who potentially have had long Super or international careers and are looking to refuel body, mind and wallet for maybe another few years.”