Tue 7 Feb 2023 | 09:30

Two more All Blacks announce post-World Cup departures

Two more All Blacks announce post-World Cup departures
Tue 7 Feb 2023 | 09:30
Two more All Blacks announce post-World Cup departures
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NEWS: All Black Test centurions Aaron Smith and Beauden Barrett have announced they will spend time playing in Japan from 2024.

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Both players have signed with the Verblitz club – with Smith committed to a long-term contract that will likely mean 2023 will be his last season in New Zealand.

New Zealand Rugby is continuing to work with Barrett about a potential return to New Zealand beyond 2024.

“I’m looking forward to taking up this opportunity with Verblitz alongside a good friend and long-term team-mate in Aaron,” said Barrett.

“My agent is in communication and negotiation with New Zealand Rugby, the Blues and Verblitz 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.”

Blues CEO Andrew Hore added: “We have loved having Beauden at the Blues since his move north in 2020. He has signalled the door is still open for a return to rugby here in New Zealand and we would absolutely welcome him, Hannah and the kids back to the Blues whānau in the future.”

Smith and Barrett will play for the Highlanders and Blues respectively in Super Rugby Pacific this season and will be available for the All Blacks through to the end of the World Cup in France.

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Both players have cemented their place in the top echelon of world rugby.

The two most-capped backs in All Blacks history, Smith (114) and Barrett (112 – second equal with Dan Carter) are part of an exclusive group to have won World Cup and Super Rugby titles.

Smith was an integral part of the Highlanders’ maiden Super Rugby title in 2015 and is the team’s most-capped player (176), while Barrett won the title with the Hurricanes in 2016.

“From the time I signed my first professional contract in 2008 I’ve been living my dream,” Smith said.

“I have been blessed to represent my home with the Manawatū Turbos, who helped me chase my dream of being a Super Rugby player,” he added.

“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. Finally, thank you to the man in my corner Warren Alcock from Halo Sport.”

Highlanders CEO Roger Clark said: “You look at Aaron and you think, this guy could go on forever. I know we and every Highlanders fan would want him to.

“Unfortunately, that is not a reality in professional rugby and the time has come to say thank you, good luck and goodbye. We wish him, Teagan, Luka and Leo all the very best in Japan, and I would encourage everyone to come out this season and watch the master at work one last time.”

Manawatū Rugby CEO Andrea Jackson said Smith had been an inspiration to young players in the region.

“Aaron is the perfect example of the pathways provided by provincial rugby. It has been a privilege for Manawatū Rugby to watch Aaron progress from a promising schoolboy at Feilding High School, to a provincial standout with the Turbos, to the All Blacks, and through to being one of the greatest in his position of all time.

Taranaki CEO Rugby Mike Sandle said: “I am sure I speak for our fans when I say we have always been extremely proud of Beauden in the way he has played and carried himself while representing the All Blacks. We would like to wish him all the best in this World Cup year and for his impending move to Verblitz.”

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