Rugby: All Blacks centre Rieko Ioane rebuffs reports of Japanese switch after 2023 World Cup

All Blacks centre Rieko Ioane has rebuffed reports he'll trade New Zealand for Japan at the end of the 2023 season.

On Friday, a report from Australian outlet the Roar indicated that 25-year-old Ioane would move to Japanese Rugby League One side Ricoh Black Rams, joining a cohort of his teammates not returning for the 2024 season.

So far, the likes of Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Brodie Retallick, Ardie Savea, Richie Mo'unga and Shannon Frizell have all taken up Japanese deals, ranging from one to three-year contracts.

Rieko Ioane at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Rieko Ioane at the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Photo credit: Photosport

Ioane is currently in the final year of his current contract with New Zealand Rugby, potentially opening the door for an overseas move next year.

Currently, Ioane has scored 33 tries in his 59 tests for New Zealand, on the verge of breaking into the All Blacks' all-time leading scorers. 

At present, Ioane is two tries away from equalling Sir John Kirwan's 35 scores, sitting 10th on the All Blacks' all-time list. Doug Howlett holds the current record with 49.

But while more Japanese deals are surely to come for All Blacks looking to set themselves up financially, Ioane won't be one this time around.

"I haven't seen anything," Ioane said after the Blues' pre-season defeat to the Chiefs. "That's news to me."

While many within New Zealand circles would be forgiven for keeping an eye on the World Cup and beyond, Ioane isn't one of them.

The 59-test veteran is instead opting to concentrate on what's to come for the Blues this season, as they look to bounce back from a near-perfect season last year.

In 2022, the Blues' title charge was ended at the final hurdle, when the Crusaders snapped a 15-game winning run with victory in the Super Rugby Pacific decider.

But as part of a Blues side stacked with test quality, Ioane says it's up to his side's internationals to lead the way towards a hopeful title in 2023.

"You don't want to be one of those All Blacks who are only good when they play for the All Blacks," he said. 

"We've got a job to do for our club. We're taking each round as it comes. 

"The [Highlanders] are first up and if you don't approach it that way you won't find yourself in France. 

"We're looking to do the job for our city first."

The Blues face the Highlanders in their first match of Super Rugby Pacific 2023 in Dunedin on February 25.