Beauden Barrett hopes the opportunity of playing fly-half on a weekly basis at Suntory Sungoliath will see him overtake Richie Mo’unga in the race for New Zealand’s starting 10 jersey.
Barrett’s decision came down to playing in Japan or competing in France’s Top 14, but moving to France would have made him unable to represent his country as happened with the likes of Jerome Kaino, Lima Sopoaga and Malakai Fekitoa in recent seasons.
However, Barrett’s contract with New Zealand Rugby afforded him the opportunity to play a sabbatical overseas, thus keeping him in the conversation ahead of the 2023 World Cup, which was the biggest factor in his decision.
“It isn’t Japan versus France at all it was about 2023,” Barrett said when speaking to AAP.
“I am really happy about the decision that I made.”
Barrett’s decision to join Japan’s top tier of rugby union has followed in the footsteps of his fellow countrymen Ben Smith, TJ Perenara and former All Blacks captain Kieran Read in playing in the Top League.
Hopes to impress
The two-time World Rugby player of the year hopes to impress in the Top League as he looks to pry the starting fly-half berth away from Mo’unga.
The 29-year-old acknowledges usurping Mo’unga will be a difficult one, and accepted that in his press conference.
“I have got a little bit of work to do in terms of slotting back into that role,” Barrett told reporters.
Barrett was widely touted as Dan Carter’s successor at fly-half, but has spent limited time at the position in recent years with Mo’unga usually preferred at 10 and Barrett at full-back.
Despite this, the All Blacks star hopes to put his best foot forward and impress Ian Foster to put his name back in the conversation.
“I think one would expect me to play a little more at No.10 and that is certainly something I am aspiring to do back in New Zealand for the All Blacks,” Barrett told AAP.
The New Zealand star will hope to be the difference maker as his new team looks to better their second placed finish in the 2018/19 season.
Suntory enjoyed a successful season before they were blown out by the Kobelco Steelers in the Top League final. The addition of Barrett stands to bring them a spark that could push them to the top of Japan’s elite competition.