New Zealand Rugby not concerned by departing All Blacks core as new era begins in 2024

While the All Blacks have arguably lost the most significant core of players in their history after this year's Rugby World Cup, New Zealand Rugby has no concerns over the future of the team.  

As the final whistle sounded at the Stade de France, as the All Blacks fell to a 12-11 defeat to South Africa, the test careers of some of New Zealand's all-time greats came to an end with it.

Sam Whitelock, Aaron Smith, Brodie Retallick and Dane Coles have all ended their All Blacks careers to take up off-shore opportunities.

Sam Whitelock and Aaron Smith.
Sam Whitelock and Aaron Smith. Photo credit: Photosport

Meanwhile, the pair of Richie Mo'unga and Shannon Frizell both conceivably have time to return to New Zealand after signing contracts in Japan, but for the time being are ineligible to be All Blacks until they do.  

All up, more than 500 test caps of experience have been lost in one go, as the All Blacks enter a new era under coach Scott Robertson.   

On Monday, Robertson received a boost as Beauden Barrett committed to New Zealand, and re-signed with the national union through until the end of 2027.  

Regardless, the losses still far outweigh that one gain, with Robertson facing a rebuild from 2024.  

But players leaving New Zealand and the All Blacks is nothing new.

Even as the eligibility conundrum rears its head again, with players unable to be picked for the All Blacks while they play offshore, New Zealand Rugby is confident in the system currently in place.  

Since the dawn of professionalism, players have had to choose between cash or country, and that won't change any time soon.

However, the ever-continuing conveyor belt of talent New Zealand seems to produce has the national body confident the black jersey will continue to be strong for years to come. 

Beauden Barrett and Ian Foster.
Beauden Barrett and Ian Foster. Photo credit: Photosport

"We've got no concerns about where the team's at, and the players that they'll have available to them," said NZR's general manager of professional rugby Chris Lendrum.

"The players that are leaving, it was probably time. These are players that have played 12-14 years for the All Blacks.

"There's always change at this time, and there's a really strong core of leaders who've been through multiple World Cups, who are going to be part of the All Blacks, and obviously an exciting new group of players and management to get alongside.

"[Barrett's] experience is important. This wouldn't make or break the team, but it's a great addition."

Despite that confidence, though, Barrett's re-signing is welcome, given the lack of options around him.

Mo'unga's departure to Japan leaves a huge hole in the No.10 jersey, previously expected to be filled by Damian McKenzie, with no other senior options available, bar Stephen Perofeta of the Blues.

And despite playing for most of the last 18 months as a fullback, Barrett's return goes a long way to clearing up the first five conundrum.

Just who Robertson instils as his first No.10 remains to be seen.

But with Barrett boasting 123 test caps – second only to Aaron Smith as an All Blacks back – his experience wasn't something New Zealand Rugby weren't prepared to let go of, as the new generation builds towards the 2027 World Cup in Australia.

"Beauden's been a key part of the team's leadership group over the last few years," added Lendrum. "He obviously brings a wealth of experience.

"But I think [he also brings] game acumen, his ability to understand how to manage a game.

"He's been to all the big stadiums in the world, he's played all the big teams on numerous occasions.

"It's far from his first rodeo. Scott, the coaching group and the new players that will come into the team next year will all get the benefit of that experience."

Barrett, along with captain Sam Cane and Ardie Savea, will be eligible for the All Blacks in 2024, after returning from a season playing in Japan.