Beauden Barrett will play for Japanese Top League side Suntory Sungoliath in 2021 as part of a sabbatical in his four-year contract with New Zealand Rugby.
Barrett, who signed a four-year deal with New Zealand Rugby and the Blues last year, will miss next year’s Super Rugby season and play for the Suntory Sungoliath club based in Tokyo, before returning to New Zealand for the 2021 international season.
He will then remain in New Zealand for the rest of his contract until 2023.
It was speculated on Thursday that the deal with Sungoliath was a two-year contract and that Barrett would only be available for the All Blacks in 2023, but that is not the case.
Barrett’s plan to play in Japan in 2021 is part of his four-year deal agreed last year with New Zealand Rugby 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  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.
‘The Super Rugby Aotearoa competition has been an amazing experience. It’s been brutal and demanding which is what you expect when New Zealand teams play each other.
‘I’m loving every minute of it and having such big crowds turning out has been fantastic. I am loving the move to the Blues and we still have a job to do this season. It is an excellent environment with great coaching and an awesome bunch of dedicated players.
‘While the excitement about heading to Japan will build closer to the time, I’ll also be looking forward to being back later in 2021 and then into the 2022 Blues season.’
Blues coach Leon McDonald reiterated that 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.
‘We have Otere Black playing terrific rugby, and Harry Plummer who has been coming off the bench, while we will have Stephen Perofeta back next season from injury.’
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