Three-time world champions New Zealand face a daunting future at No 10 when another star playmaker heads overseas.
All Blacks flyhalf Richie Mo’unga has revealed his plans to leave New Zealand for Japan after next year’s World Cup in France.
The 32-Test-capped playmaker is not contracted to NZ Rugby beyond 2023, and the 28-year-old said he wants to play abroad for as long as two years following the World Cup.
“Another reason for the one-year sign-on with NZ Rugby was allowing myself to have a look at opportunities overseas and seeing what somewhere like Japan has to offer and keeping my options open, whether that’s one or two seasons over there, and possibly coming back to New Zealand and hopefully play for the Crusaders and All Blacks,” Mo’unga told the New Zealand Herald.
As such, a return to New Zealand would be unlikely until possibly 2025.
Mo’unga is currently the only other outright flyhalf for the All Blacks behind incumbent Beauden Barrett, who is set to retire from Test rugby and also pursue options abroad after the 2023 global showpiece.
Damian McKenzie, who has been playing for Suntory Sungoliath in Japan, is the strongest candidate to step up in the absence of Barrett and Mo’unga from 2024.
But, the utility back is still yet to re-sign with NZ Rugby since coming off contract at the end of last year, and aside from McKenzie and one-Test pivot Josh Ioane, the All Blacks would have only currently uncapped players to pick from as successors to Barrett and Mo’unga.