A move to away from New Zealand would normally rule a player out of All Black selection but that is not the case with Beauden Barrett's move to Japan with the All Black and Blues' playmaker signing a one-year deal with Suntory Sungoliath.
Barrett will miss next year’s Super Rugby season and play for the Suntory Sungoliath club based in Tokyo, before returning to New Zealand. While test teams like South Africa, Scotland and all of the Pacific Islanders teams are able to pick players that are plying their trade outside of the country, the same does not apply to all countries.
New Zealand are one of those sides with the All Black selectors unable to select players based outside of New Zealand, much like England.
However, with higher paychecks available abroad New Zealand Rugby has been known to offer top players sabbaticals where they are still under contract with New Zealand Rugby but spend a year away from the field or at an overseas club.
Richie McCaw and Dan Carter were two of the first players to be offered these deals with Carter heading off for a season in France with Perpignan while McCaw took a break from rugby in 2013 missing the Super Rugby season and the All Blacks' June tests.
Barrett signed a similar deal in last year with his new contract affording him the same perks. While Barrett looked as if he would not activate the clause it is likely the paycuts in New Zealand's franchise changed the 29-year-old's mind or he was requested to do so in order for the Blues and NZ Rugby to save some money.
His move to Suntory Sungoliath will see him turn out in the Top League which is targeted to kick off in January next year. Although the format of the new season is yet to be confirmed, the season is likely to be completed before the 2021 test window.
NZR General Manager Professional Rugby & Performance Chris Lendrum confirmed that Barrett's situation on how he would still be able to play for the All Blacks saying: "The arrangement is similar to what was in place for Beaudy’s All Blacks teammates Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock who played in Japan this year. That flexibility in our contracting is key: it allows our top players to refresh in a different rugby environment but remain committed to New Zealand Rugby which, in the long term, is great for both parties.”
Where Retallick's deal differs from that of Barrett's is that Retallick opted to play two seasons in Japan’s Top League in 2020 and 2021, with an extended family break in between, meaning he would then only return to rugby in New Zealand in May 2021 and play through to the end of the 2023 season.