Wellington — All Black superstar Beauden Barrett and veteran scrumhalf Aaron Smith have signed to play for Japanese side Toyota Verblitz after the World Cup, New Zealand rugby said in a statement Tuesday.
Both men have more than 100 Test caps and were World Cup winners, bringing a wealth of experience to a side already led by legendary All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.
Both Barrett and Smith are expected to play in Japan in 2024, after the Rugby World Cup later this year in France.
They join a string of talent heading north in search of lucrative contracts.
Barrett (31) is expected to return to play in New Zealand after his stint in the northern hemisphere, while Smith will go on a longer contract and is unlikely to return to the Highlanders.
“I have to say a big thanks to the Highlanders for believing in me. I have done it all with that team and they have always been there for me,” Smith said in a statement.
It is not yet clear whether Barrett will return to the Blues once his time in Japan is up.
“I want to give myself time to ensure I make the right decision and once I gain clarity on that I will be able to give an update on what my future looks like beyond 2024,” he said.
Barrett previously played in Japan in the 2021 season, running out 10 times for the Suntory Sungoliath.