DStv Channel 403 Sunday, 21 April 2024

All Black Barrett looking to 'mentally refresh' in Japan

BEIJING - All Blacks playmaker Beauden Barrett said Thursday that he plans to "mentally refresh" during his season-long sabbatical in Japan before returning to play for New Zealand next year.

The 32-year-old is preparing to start the new Japan Rugby League One season this weekend after signing for Toyota Verblitz along with international team-mate Aaron Smith.

Barrett committed to a new World Cup cycle with the All Blacks on Monday by signing with New Zealand Rugby until the end of 2027.

He previously played in Japan with Tokyo Sungoliath in 2021 and he believes another season there will make him a better player.

"There's still a strong desire to play for the All Blacks -- I've made that pretty clear so that's why I'm super grateful to be here and to mentally refresh," he said.

"I do find that it's a great experience here, you learn so much as a player and I can take that back to New Zealand also."

The two-time world player of the year has won 123 caps for the All Blacks and has played at three World Cups, winning the trophy in 2015.

He and Smith both played in New Zealand's narrow loss to South Africa in this year's final in Paris.

The pair will line up alongside South Africa loose forward Pieter-Steph du Toit and Japan captain Kazuki Himeno at Verblitz, who finished last season sixth in the 12-team league.

Barrett said he was looking forward to playing "with a good freedom" in Japan.

"Japanese rugby is in a great place and I think that's why you see so many international rugby players choosing to come up and play here now," he said.

Barrett and Smith are among seven All Blacks who started the World Cup final who have moved to Japan, including captain Sam Cane and world player of the year Ardie Savea.

Former All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen is Verblitz's director of rugby.

Scrum-half Smith said he was looking forward to linking up with Himeno again, after the pair played together for the Highlanders in 2021.

"I've been really impressed with the skill level and the physicality," said Smith.

"I'm looking forward to experiencing that in a real game."

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