Rugby: All Blacks shouldn't worry about upcoming Japanese player exodus, explains former captain Kieran Read

NZ Rugby and the All Blacks need not fear the upcoming exodus of players to Japan after the 2023 World Cup, according to former captain Kieran Read.

Just over six months out from this year's tournament in France, key All Blacks have already indicated their futures lie elsewhere. 

Aaron Smith and Brodie Retallick have all but confirmed the end of their international careers, while Beauden Barrett has left the door slightly ajar for a possible return.

Influential loose forward and potential captain Ardie Savea will miss next season on a one-year sabbatical, before he returns to New Zealand in 2025. 

Former All Blacks captain Kieran Read.
Former All Blacks captain Kieran Read. Photo credit: Getty Images

Richie Mo'unga is arguably the biggest loss, signing a three-year deal with Toshiba Brave Lupus, leaving him ineligible for the All Blacks. 

News of more All Blacks departing is almost certainly imminent, with Rieko Ioane already denying reports he's moving to Japan at the end of his NZ Rugby contract this year.

The departures leave uncertainty over the All Blacks' future, with questions over the make-up of the side, as well as the next coach.

Former All Blacks captain Read, who left New Zealand for Toyota Verblitz at the end of the 2019 World Cup, insists the wave of departures is nothing to fear, with plenty of other players able to step up. 

"The World Cup year becomes a natural end for a lot of players," Read told Sky Sport's the Breakdown. "It was in my case and certainly for a few guys this year as well, but what NZ Rugby doesn't lack is talent, which is awesome. 

"So long as you've got enough leadership sprinkled through the squad, that's going to carry on next year.

"We're going to be dented a little bit. We'll see guys going to Japan who could potentially still be playing good enough footy to be playing in the All Black jersey, but I'm sure there'll be enough talent around - or leaders around - to make sure people can come on and do what's needed for the jersey."

Read also addressed the worry around Mo'unga's future, with the Crusaders first-five walking away from the black jersey in his prime years.

Barrett's departure would normally open the door for Mo'unga, 28, to be the All Blacks' first-choice No.10 for another World Cup cycle, but now there's uncertainty over who the next coach can call upon.

Read urges understanding, with Mo'unga putting the needs of his family above any personal desire to be an All Blacks great. 

"It doesn't worry me, because I know the situation he's in. I can feel for the decision he's made there. 

"He could play another four years or more, and create a dynasty, a real legacy for his story in the All Black jersey that he won't have now.

"It's disappointing not to see that from him, but I totally understand. As a player, I backed everyone when they made their decision, because they've got their own individual things going on.

"It's just a case of what happens there."

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