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Kieran Read on why New Zealand Rugby doesn't need to worry about All Black exodus

By Ben Smith
(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Former All Black captain Kieran Read has weighed in with what he expects for the All Blacks in 2024 as concerns over a growing exodus surround the side.

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A number of experienced veterans will wear the black jersey for the last time in 2023, including Aaron Smith, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, and Beauden Barrett, unless he receives a special exemption to resume his test career.

But it’s not only the test centurions who are reaching the end, a number of players having already committed overseas like Shannon Frizell and Richie Mo’unga and many more haven’t yet announced what they’ll do like Rieko Ioane or Damian McKenzie.

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The two-time World Cup winner and veteran of 120 Tests explained on Sky Sport NZ’s The Breakdown that he isn’t worried about the All Blacks due to the amount of talent in the system.

“The World Cup year often becomes a natural end for players, and it was in my case, certainly for a few guys this year,” Read told The Breakdown panel.

“What New Zealand rugby doesn’t lack is the talent, which is awesome.

“As long as you’ve got enough leadership sprinkled through the squad who are going to carry on next year, which you know, we are going to be dented a little bit.

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“There’s guys going to Japan who could still potentially be playing good enough footy to be in the All Black jersey.

“I’m sure there will be enough leaders around to make sure people come in and do what is needed for the jersey.”

One significant name on the departure list is former teammate and Crusaders first five Richie Mo’unga, who penned a three-year deal with Toshiba in Japan Rugby League One for 2024 and beyond.

Mo’unga’s test career finally found a footing in 2022 after being afforded a number of starts in a row as the All Blacks No 10.

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Read was torn over the departure as he is aware of Mo’unga’s personal circumstances but felt he was giving up the chance to cement his status as an All Black great.

“I guess it doesn’t worry me, because I know the situation he is in, I feel for the decision he has made there,” he said.

“But he could play another four years or more in the All Black jersey and create a dynasty. A real legacy for himself and his story in the All Black jersey.

“He won’t potentially have that now. It’s disappointing not to see that from him.

“But I totally understand as a player, I backed everyone’s decision because they’ve got their own individual things that are going on.”

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The post-pandemic landscape for NZR has rapidly changed with Japanese clubs hovering up New Zealand’s players at an exponential rate.

From top-line All Blacks on sabbaticals to the middle tier of Super Rugby, Japan has been an attractive destination for Kiwi players.

The former All Black captain said that this is the way of the world now and we would see fewer players really commit long term to stay in New Zealand.

“I think that is the way that it is, and you’ve seen that players now are resistant to signing those really long contracts,” he said.

“If they do, they put those clauses to go away or things like that.

“If England and Aussie hadn’t got rid of their coaches at the end of last year, if we didn’t sign Razor up he’d be gone.

“Because they would’ve signed him up now I’m sure.

“It’s just the way of the world, in everything that’s happening and rugby’s going that way.”

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