New Zealand Rugby has used another Japanese sweetener to retain one of its best players after Brodie Retallick signed through to the 2023 World Cup.
World class lock Retallick, 28, has negotiated a three-year contract which begins in 2021, allowing him to squeeze in two seasons of rugby at an unnamed Japan club beginning after this year’s World Cup.
Despite missing the next two Super Rugby campaigns with the Chiefs, he will be available for All Blacks selection from May 2021, contravening the NZ Rugby regulation applying to most players.
The deal is similar to that accepted by fellow-lock Sam Whitelock, who will play the looming off-season in Japan and be available for Test duty immediately next year – potentially as captain.
Chief Executive Steve Tew said the concessions made sense to retain the country’s premier assets.
“Brodie’s now into his eighth full season of professional rugby, so taking some time out from the New Zealand game will give him time to freshen up physically and mentally and spend more time with his family,” Tew said.
“We look forward to him returning to the New Zealand fold in 2021, refreshed and raring to go.”
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen didn’t hold back when lauding the importance of retaining Retallick, labelling him arguably the finest second-rower to play the game.
“Brodie is one of the best locks to ever play the game, if not the best, and has given his all for the All Blacks jersey, year in year out,” Hansen said.
“I congratulate NZR on being inventive in their contracting process, as there would have been many offers for him to leave permanently.”
The 2014 world player of the year was grateful for the opportunity of a break from what he called the “high-octane” Kiwi environment, believing it will extend the length of his career.