RUGBY NEWS - Star fly-half Beauden Barrett signed a contract extension with the All Blacks Friday that takes him through to the 2023 World Cup and sees him move to the Auckland Blues Super Rugby team.
Barrett, 28, a two-time world player of the year, will also take an extended break after this year's World Cup and will have the option of a stint playing club rugby in Japan under the new deal.
Retaining the 73-Test playmaker, who could have commanded a huge wage in Europe, is a major boost for the All Blacks, who will face an exodus of talent later this year after the showpiece tournament in Japan.
"There is no doubting how important he is to the All Blacks... he is now a genuine leader in any team he plays and a strong contributor to our off-field responsibilities," New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew said.
Barrett will switch his Super Rugby allegiance from the Wellington Hurricanes to the Auckland Blues next year, although he will miss about half the season while taking a sabbatical from the game.
He said he was relishing the prospect of working with the Blues, who finished last in this year's New Zealand conference and are trying to regain their status as one of the country's top clubs.
"They're a team on the rise, I like the way they play and I'm really looking forward to being a part of that," he said, adding his current priority was chasing a third straight World Cup with the All Blacks in Japan.
The Blues claimed the last of their three titles in 2003 and have not made the playoffs since 2011.
They first tried to recruit Barrett in 2013 but he rejected them to stay with the Hurricanes, winning a title with the Wellington team in 2016.
Blues chief executive Michael Redman described Barrett's defection as "the most influential player movement in Super Rugby history".
"Signing a player of Beauden's calibre has been years in the making... changes we've made to our club in recent years meant for the first time the Blues were a credible option for him," he said.
All Blacks who will leave after the World Cup include captain Kieran Read, Ben Smith, Ryan Crotty, Waisake Naholo, Owen Franks, Liam Squire and Nehe Milner-Skudder.
Coach Steve Hansen and Tew are also departing, while there are question marks over the future of code-hopping star Sonny Bill Williams.
However, Barrett joins Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock in signing on to 2023, ensuring the All Blacks retain an experienced leadership group.