All Blacks star Beauden Barrett could be lost to Japan with reports he has signed a $3m deal for two seasons of cub action there.
The Daily Mail reports that Barrett, a double world player of the year, has agreed to join the Suntory Sungoliath.
They suggest the 29-year-old will make the move to Japan at the end of this year, with New Zealand Rugby agreeing to the deal to “help ease the financial strain of Covid-19.
Barrett, who plays first-five and fullback has been a big hit with the Blues in upper Rugby Aotearoa after making the move north from the Hurricanes.
* All Blacks forward Scott Barrett says ‘hurt’ from World Cup loss motivated him to re-sign with NZ Rugby
* Super Rugby: Jordie Barrett to sign two-year deal with NZR, one with Hurricanes
* Super Rugby: All Blacks star Beauden Barrett signs four-year deal with the Blues
There has been constant speculation about the gifted playmaker’s future given the massive money available offshore.
This year he has been linked to a new American league and most recently was named as the No 1 target for ambitious French second division club Berziers, the 11-time Top 14 champions, who are desperate to become a force in Europe again.
Japan has become an increasingly favoured destination for top New Zealand rugby players, including New Zealand Rugby helping set up sabbatical deals there.
Leading All Blacks locks Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick have both been playing in Japan this year though that championship was halted by the coronavirus pandemic.
In the lead-up to last year’s World Cup in Japan, Barrett expressed an interest about playing there.
“There is a lot to like about Japan,” he said then.
“What I can say is there is good open communication with the coaches, my management and NZR and I am happy that at the right time I will make the right decision.”
The Suntory Goliath are coached by well-travelled New Zealander Milton Haig.
They have England coach Eddie Jones in a consultancy role as director of rugby.
The Kiwi players on their current books are Tevita Li, Richard Judd, Jordan Smiler, Tui Hendrik, and Joe Latta,