The 28-year-old is contracted with New Zealand Rugby until 2023, but took a two-year sabbatical to play for the Kobelco Steelers in Japan in 2020 and 2021. Retallick’s situation is similar to other top returning players such as Ben Smith, Waisake Naholo and Ryan Crotty, all of whom are under contract overseas and would require New Zealand Super Rugby sides to cover insurance costs to enable them to suit up for the Aotearoa campaign.
However, the Chiefs still did reach out to Retallick about potentially re-joining the franchise, but he instead opted for an extended break.
“The Chiefs did approach me, but one of the reasons I wanted to stay [playing] in Japan and do these couple of seasons was just to have a break – a bit of time with the family with a long offseason, and give the body a bit of a break,” he told The Country.
Retallick poked fun at Chiefs coach Warren Gatland for suggesting he was spending his break on a Hawke’s Bay farm, like his international locking partner Sam Whitelock, who stayed on his family’s farm in the region before re-joining the Crusaders.
“Warren Gatland chucked it out there that I wasn’t going to play Super Rugby and that I was spending some time on my Hawke’s Bay farm, but I can clarify that – I own a property in Hawke’s Bay, where we are at the moment, but it’s only about 1500 square metres, so it’s no farm, that’s for sure,” laughed Retallick.
“I’m sure the footy is going to be good viewing with Super Rugby Aotearoa, it’s going to be tough, but living in the Hawke’s Bay at the moment I decided not to chuck the boots on for the Chiefs this season and just enjoy a bit of a longer break that we’ve got now.”
Retallick is also open about changes to test rugby in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, saying it could be a good opportunity to trial new ideas.
“I’m not sure how test rugby is going to look over the next year or so with all these restrictions and where different countries are at.
“One thing that opened my eyes playing in Japan is how good a bit of a change of scenery and change in competition was – it brings some excitement and some unknown.”
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