New Zealand star fly-half Beauden Barrett will make his debut in the Japanese Top League next year after signed by Suntory Sungoliath.
The move to Japan was also part of the contract signed by Barrett with New Zealand Rugby which will see him head to Japan during the 2021 Super Rugby season before returning back to All Blacks duty for the 2021 international calendar.
The 29-year-old made a switch from Hurricanes - the club he represented between 2011 and 2019 - to Auckland Blues ahead of the 2020 season and is currently an integral part of their Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign.
“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.
“My wife and I are excited to head to Japan next year. It is an appealing place for a young family and comparatively safe in health terms.
“The Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa competition has been an amazing experience. It’s been brutal and demanding which is what you expect when New Zealand teams play each other.
“I’m loving every minute of it and having such big crowds turning out has been fantastic.
“I am loving the move to the Blues and we still have a job to do this season. It is an excellent environment with great coaching and an awesome bunch of dedicated players.
“While the excitement about heading to Japan will build closer to the time, I’ll also be looking forward to being back later in 2021 and then into the 2022 Blues season.”
Barrett has played 83 Tests for New Zealand since his debut in 2012 and was part of the victorious 2015 World Cup campaign. He was also a key member of New Zealand's 2019 World Cup squad.
Blues Head Coach Leon MacDonald admitted losing Barrett will be a blow but they have their plans for the 2021 season without the All Blacks star.
“Our focus is fully on the current campaign but we have plans for next year without Beaudy. He will be a big loss but that is countered with what he is doing on and off the field this year, and that we get him for two more years.
“We have Otere Black playing terrific rugby, and Harry Plummer who has been coming off the bench, while we will have Stephen Perofeta back next season from injury.”