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New Zealand playmaker Beauden Barrett will miss next year’s Super Rugby season to play in Japan.
However, the 29-year-old will return to New Zealand in time to resume international duties with the All Blacks, say his Auckland Blues club.
The two-time World Rugby Player of the Year will join Tokyo-based Suntory Sungoliath next year.
It exercises an option to play in Japan that was included in a contract he signed last year.
Under the deal, Barrett will miss Super Rugby in 2021 but play for the All Blacks in late 2021 before remaining in New Zealand up until the 2023 World Cup.
“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 Rugby World Cup,” said Barrett.
Fellow All Blacks Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock have similar arrangements allowing them to play in Japan while under contract to New Zealand Rugby (NZR).
“That flexibility in our contracting is key,” added NZR’s head of professional rugby Chris Lendrum.
“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.”