Rugby: All Black star Beauden Barrett unveiled by new Japanese club Suntory Sungoliath

Beauden Barrett hopes to remain in contention for the All Blacks No.10 jersey by impressing in Japan's Top League.

The NZ superstar has been unveiled as a Suntory Sungoliath player in Tokyo, before the 2021 season commencing next week.

Part of Barrett's contract with NZ Rugby allows him to play a sabbatical overseas and the two-time World Rugby Player of the Year has chosen Japan over big-money deals in France.

Despite taking a year out from Super Rugby and the spotlight of playing at home, the 29-year-old is eager to impress All Blacks boss Ian Foster and claim back the lead playmaker role, after featuring heavily at fullback in recent years, behind Crusaders first-five Richie Mo'unga.

"I have got a little bit of work to do in terms of slotting back into that role [first-five]," Barrett says.

"I think one would expect me to play a little more at No.10 and that is certainly something I am aspiring to do back in New Zealand for the All Blacks."

New Zealand rugby union player Beauden Barrett, a new recruit of Japan s Suntory Sungoliath, receives his jersey from the team s senior director Masato Tsuchida during a press conference in Tokyo on January 6, 2021. (Photo by Behrouz MEHRI / AFP)
Photo credit: Getty

Barrett is one of several high-profile foreign players who have joined Japanese clubs this season, including compatriots Kieran Read, TJ Perenara and Ben Smith.

Barrett could have chosen to play a season in France where, as a non-exempt foreign-based player, he would have ruled himself out for contention for the All Blacks. But he chose Japan in large part because that would allow him to better prepare for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

"It isn't Japan versus France at all. It was about 2023," says Barrett.

"I am really happy about the decision that I made."

Top League, which was completely scrapped last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, is due to begin next weekend and Barrett says all the players are prepared to be flexible should the virus disrupt the league schedule.

Since arriving in Japan late last year, Barrett has also been working on his Japanese and was asked to say a few words on Wednesday.

He mustered a few phrases, much to the pleasure of the Japanese media.

"Gosh, I have been put on the spot," he said. "I promise you I am better [at Japanese] than what I am presenting right now."

Reuters