All Blacks stars Beauden Barrett and Aaron Smith will both join Toyota Verblitz in Japan after this year’s Rugby World Cup.
Still crucial players for New Zealand, Barrett and Smith will link up in Japan for Toyota Verblitz in 2024, where former All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen is the director of rugby.
Smith has signed a long-term contract with Toyota, and as the scrum-half turns 35 later this year it means that 2023 will likely be his final year as an All Black.
New Zealand Rugby are working with Barrett about a potential return to his home country’s rugby system after 2024, although the 31-year-old has yet to make a decision on his future.
Beauden Barrett is unsure about where his future lies.
“I’m looking forward to taking up this opportunity with Toyota alongside a good friend and long-term team-mate in Aaron,” Barrett told New Zealand Rugby.
“My agent Warren Alcock is in communication and negotiation with New Zealand Rugby, the Blues and Toyota about my future beyond the Japan One 2024 season.
“I want to give myself time to ensure I make the right decision and once I gain clarity on that I will be able to give an update on what my future looks like beyond 2024.”
✨WELCOME to TOYOTA VERBLITZ✨
New Zealand Cap:112
New Zealand 2012 – Present
Blues 2020 – Present
Taranaki 2010 – Present
— トヨタヴェルブリッツ TOYOTA VERBLITZ (@toyotaverblitz) February 7, 2023
End of an era for the All Blacks and Highlanders.
Smith has won 113 caps since he made his debut for the All Blacks in 2012, while he has been a key player for the Highlanders since his first Super Rugby season in 2011.
The scrum-half is the Highlander’s most capped player with 176 appearances so far, and he will add to that tally in the upcoming Super Rugby Pacific season.
“From the time I signed my first professional contract in 2008 I’ve been living my dream. I have been blessed to represent my home with the Manawatū Turbos, who helped me chase my dream of being a Super Rugby player,” Smith said.
“I have to say a big thanks to the Highlanders for believing in me. I have done it all with that team and they have always been there for me. Thank you to every Highlanders player, staff member and fan.
“You have given me everything and more in the 13 years we have had together. Finally, thank you to the man in my corner Warren Alcock from Halo Sport.”
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