'Just make it one big competition': Beauden Barrett calls for Japanese inclusion in future version of Super Rugby
Barrett won’t feature in this year’s five-round trans-Tasman Super Rugby mini-series after returning from his stint in the Japanese Top League with Suntory Goliath.
But with the COVID-19 forcing officials into a rethink of the entire Super Rugby format from 2022 onwards, the two-time World Player of the Year has thrown his support behind a proposed overhaul.
Barrett, contracted with the Blues after a decade at the Hurricanes, likes the idea of Australia’s and New Zealand’s five franchises welcoming Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika into the competition next year.
But Barrett believes Japan also deserves a place at the table.
“I hope that some time soon we can add some more teams into the Super Rugby competition because it’s so important for us to have a local competition challenging ourselves against the Pacific Islands, Australia, even Japan,” he said on a Zoom call from Tokyo.
“Throw Japan in there. There’s a lot of capable teams.
“I do hope that eventuates and [we] form some sort of round-robin competition where I guess we throw away that home and away Super Rugby Aotearoa and Super Rugby Australia and just make it one big competition.”
Barrett said the abandonment of the 2020 and 2021 Super Rugby tournaments because of the pandemic had left New Zealand players chomping at the bit to get a crack at their Australian rivals.
“The last couple of years it’s been Australia that’s been taken away with Super Rugby,” he said.
“So it’s great that our governments have found a way to travel and that we can play these games.
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“I know the guys back home will be really keen to get into the Australian Super Rugby competition and just see where they’re at.
“I watched it, a lot of the players watch it – the Australian teams – and it’s going to make a great spectacle leading into the Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship.”
Like Japan’s national coach and fellow Kiwi Jamie Joseph, Barrett also hopes the Brave Blossoms will gain a start in the Rugby Championship sooner rather than later.
“The skill level and the pace that the Japanese play the game at, or the Top League is played at, is impressive. It’s like a fast Super Rugby game,” said the superstar fly-half.
“I’ve really enjoyed adapting to that style of footy.
“Where it may not be as physical, we certainly make up for in training weeks. The work ethic of the Japanese players is admirable. Sometimes it’s too much, I believe.
“But I guess they’ll get that balance as they figure it out.”
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