The 29-year-old is currently in Japan serving the second of his two-season sabbatical with the Kobelco Steelers in the Top League, but will return to New Zealand in May when the season has finished.
In an exclusive interview with The XV, Retallick said his return to his homeland will mark the beginning of the end of his illustrious playing career.
“I’m looking forward to, if all goes to plan, getting back to the All Blacks and playing two seasons for the Chiefs,” he said.
“Realistically, they’ll probably be the last couple in New Zealand before I decide what I’ll do next, whether that’s hanging up the boots or maybe coming back to Japan.
“I have a rough idea in my head on how I plan on doing the last third of my career, or whatever you want to call it. Whether that goes to plan or whether I have a change of mind, I’m not sure. But I’ve got a family and a wife and kids and stuff, so you have to think about these things.”
By the time Retallick reaches 2023, he will have been playing professionally for 11 years, having made his Super Rugby debut for the Chiefs as a 21-year-old in 2012.
Since then, the 2014 World Rugby Player of the Year has played significant roles for both the Chiefs and All Blacks.
With two Super Rugby titles and a World Cup crown to his name, Retallick has been an integral figure for whichever side he has played for.
In addition to his 81 tests for the All Blacks, Retallick has also featured 107 times for the Chiefs, but that heavy output has come at a cost.
He said the physical toll of taking to the field so regularly has caught up on him, with injuries – including the dislocated shoulder he suffered in the lead-up to the 2019 World Cup – playing their part in his decision to head to Japan for a sabbatical.
“When I arrived at the Chiefs, and from there, making the All Blacks, those first five or six years were pretty full-on – I played a lot of rugby,” Retallick told The XV.
Another All Black has committed himself to New Zealand rugby until 2023.https://t.co/93NYq23ldt
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 9, 2021
“I’d sometimes joke with people, they’d say to me, ‘Oh, you’re not that old’ and I’d say, ‘Yes, but I’ve played a lot of rugby.
“Looking back over the last two or three years, I don’t know whether those sorts of injuries that started to catch up on me were a price of playing a lot of rugby in those early years or not, I’m not sure. But coming to Japan was definitely a result of how much rugby I played in those first five or six years.”
It’s that attritional aspect of the game that prevented Retallick from turning out for the Chiefs in last year’s Super Rugby Aotearoa, despite returning to New Zealand from Japan amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
“To be honest, it was a pretty easy decision,” he said of his decision to turn down an offer from Chiefs coach Warren Gatland to turn out for the Hamilton franchise.
“The Chiefs asked if I would be interested in playing when Tyler [Ardron] went up to Europe and Michael [Allardice] had his shoulder surgery but for me personally, in the bigger picture of my game, the break was something that I wasn’t really willing to compromise on.
“If I had gone to play Super Rugby, then it would have gone against my whole reason of going to Japan. Not only that, but my family would have also stayed in Napier while I would have gone back to Hamilton and one of the reasons for going to Japan was to spend some more time with the family. So, in the end, it wasn’t a very hard decision.
“I was actually sitting at home watching Super Rugby Aotearoa and I was pretty glad of my decision. It was pretty brutal, those Kiwi teams going at it each weekend – but I’ll look forward to doing that when I get back.”
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