Rugby: NZ Rugby claims Beauden Barrett contract proof All Blacks eligibility rules work

Beauden Barrett's new contract with NZ Rugby has been held up as an example of how All Blacks eligibility rules work.

The veteran first-five/fullback has eased some of the rebuild pressure on new national coach Scott Robertson by recommitting to his country - and the Blues Super Rugby franchise - through the next World Cup cycle, once his current Japan sabbatical is completed.

Barrett, 32, is one of several established All Blacks heading offshore, many of them unlikely to return to the black jersey, as their careers wind down.

Barrett brothers - Jordie, Scott and Beauden - face the national anthem for All Blacks.
Barrett brothers - Jordie, Scott and Beauden - face the national anthem for All Blacks. Photo credit: Photosport

Faced with an exodus of talent, Robertson has hinted he wants rules changed, so overseas-based players can still qualify for selection, a change backed by NZ captain Sam Cane last week.

Wary of undermining Super Rugby Pacific, NZ Rugby has resisted those calls and can now point to Barrett as the posterchild for how the rules work for the benefit of everyone.

"It just goes to show that although the money that's available for some of these players offshore is seriously compelling, the opportunity to put black on and play for a team that we all aspire to be the best in the world... that's an opportunity that's really hard to walk past," said NZ Rugby head of professional rugby Chris Lendum.

"Look at the whole family - black's in the blood. There's three of them playing for the All Blacks in the same team, there's plenty of reasons."

Brothers Beauden, Jordie and Scott Barrett all started the World Cup final against South Africa, and Beauden has cited that family bond as motivation to extend his international career.

If Robertson chooses to make a captaincy change, lock Scott Barrett may yet be handed the role he has performed with the champion Crusaders.

"It's great," Lendrum told media. "You'll all have to go away and rewrite your exodus headlines that come about this time every four years.

"This just proves the model can work and it has worked. It's a huge part of our success.

"It's incumbent on us at NZ Rugby to be always thinking about what we can do to better enable this team to perform. With something like the eligibility criteria, we have to be really cautious about how you pick away and make changes to that.

"It's great to see Beauden reinforcing that, with a little bit of flexibility on the side for somebody who has earned that over his career."

Barrett has played offshore before, taking a 2021 sabbatical with Suntory Sungoliath in Japan, as part of his NZ Rugby contract, before returning to New Zealand. Cane and vice-captain Ardie Savea are taking that option, and will be allowed to take their places with the All Blacks next year.

This time, Barrett signed with Toyota Verblitz at the end of his NZ contract, but because of his long-term commitment - both historical and future - will also step right back into the black jersey.

The two-time World Rugby Player of the Year is the second-most capped back in All Blacks history, just a handful of tests behind departed halfback Aaron Smith.  

"We've got no concerns over where the team is at and the players available to them," said Lendrum. "Some of the players that are leaving, it's probably time.

Beauden Barrett in action for the All Blacks.
Beauden Barrett in action for the All Blacks. Photo credit: Photosport

"These are players who have played 12-14 years for the All Blacks. At some point, sadly, we all have to bid them farewell and they go off to retire.

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

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

Barrett's exact role in the new Robertson regime will be intriguing, given the departure of incumbent first-five Richie Mo'unga, the emergence of Damian McKenzie as a playmaker and the prospect of star winger Will Jordan possibly switching to fullback, where he excelled under Robertson at the Crusaders.