WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick has signed a groundbreaking new deal with New Zealand Rugby which will see him play for two years in Japan after this year's World Cup before returning New Zealand for the 2022 and 2023 seasons.
The deal is the latest measure taken by NZR to retain a senior All Black in the face of increasingly lucrative offers from clubs in Japan, Britain and France.
Under the deal, Retallick will be allowed a two year "sabbatical" in Japan in 2020 and 2021 during which he will not be available for the All Blacks or to play Super Rugby for the Hamilton-based Chiefs.
Under New Zealand rules players based overseas are not considered for All Blacks selection, though Retallick's All Blacks locking partner Sam Whitelock will be eligible for selection during a short-term stay in Japan next season.
Retallick, 28, said clarifying his future plans had been "a big decision."
"I've been playing high-octane rugby with the Chiefs and All Blacks since 2012 and while I've loved every minute of it and my workload has been managed well, I've decided to give my body a break from the New Zealand game so that ultimately I can extend my career here," he said.
Retallick will be joined in the Japan club competition next season by fellow All Blacks Kieran Read, Ryan Crotty, Liam Squire and Jason Hemopo.
Japan has become and increasingly popular destination for top New Zealand players because of its shorter season and less physically-demanding club competition.
"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," New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew said.