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Jordie Barrett: Leinster move to become 'a better All Black'

By Ned Lester
Jordie Barrett runs out for the All Blacks. Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images

The Hurricanes will be without one of their biggest stars in 2025 thanks to a new deal between Jordie Barrett and European heavyweights Leinster, a signing that shocked the rugby world.

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The fullback-turned-second five-eighth signed the one-season deal with the Irish club as a sabbatical within the framework of a new, long-term contract with New Zealand Rugby which will see the youngest of the three All Black Barrett brothers remain in New Zealand past the 2027 Rugby World Cup.

Kiwi fans are no longer strangers to the idea of sabbaticals removing big names from local competition for a season, but Barrett’s decision to pass up offers from Japan’s Rugby League One and look to Europe bucks the trend.

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“My eyes were only ever heading towards Japan and having a wee stint there,” Barrett told Newstalk ZB’s Jason Pine. “But, Leinster put an offer forward, and basically just the prestige of their club and what they’ve done in the past and the direction they’re heading in the future really stuck out and excited me.

“I feel like I should be playing some of my best rugby there. The challenge of playing Champions Cup and URC finals is something I’d love to walk towards and feel like it’ll grow my game.”

There were plenty of pros and cons to weigh up for Barrett, but ultimately, the opportunity to dive in the deep end and challenge himself was too good to turn down.

“There’s a bit of a balance. In the past, sabbaticals have been for All Blacks who have played X number of tests,” Barrett said. “It was almost time to re-energise and change the environment, just to come back and set yourself up better to add longevity to your career.

“That was the forefront of my decision as well, but I saw it as a great opportunity to go to a place where I believe I’ll come back a better rugby player.

“[Money] is certainly a serious component. For different individuals, that can be at the top of the tree or somewhere a little further down.

“I put my development and my experiences, and my thinking of coming back and trying to be a better rugby player and a better All Black and a better Hurricane, right at the top of that tree. That took priority over all the other options I had.”

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Barrett talked about Leinster having “most of the Irish team” as well as “great coaches” as further incentives for the shift.

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The idea of that experience growing the 27-year-old as a player won over new All Blacks coach Scott “Razor” Robertson, who helped facilitate the signing.

“Razor was really good and really understanding and saw it through my eyes. Not many players go to Europe for their sabbatical so it was a different sort of discussion, but I’m grateful Razor and NZR agreed and put a plan in place for me.

“Carrying a little bit of hurt from the last World Cup, it’s motivating me and a lot of other boys to have a really good few years and set ourselves up to hopefully go one better in a few years’ time.

“It’s an interesting transition with new coaches and a lot of new players but I think it’s an exciting time for New Zealand rugby, and one I wanted to be part of.”

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The contract signs the midfielder up for a busy schedule in 2024, with the URC season kicking off ahead of the End of Year Tours. Barrett would typically have an extended break over the Kiwi summer, returning to Hurricanes duties in mid-late January.

Within Super Rugby Pacific, All Blacks are also required to rest at least twice a season, a season which is significantly shorter than the one awaiting Barrett in Europe.

“There’s a big block in February-March [during the Six Nations] where I won’t be playing any rugby. Essentially that’s going to be my big break.

“It looks as though I’m just going rugby to rugby and there’s no break there, but I’ll be managed throughout the season.”

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