Toyota Verblitz on Tuesday announced the signings of All Blacks Beauden Barrett and Aaron Smith for the 2023-24 Japan Rugby League One season, creating what promises to be one of the most potent backlines in the competition.
The star duo will head to Japan after this year's Rugby World Cup in France, where New Zealand will aim to become the first country to lift the Webb Ellis Cup four times.
One of the standouts of the 2019 World Cup in Japan, Barrett is set for his second stint in Japanese club rugby after playing for Suntory Sungoliath, now Tokyo Sungoliath, in 2021.
The 31-year-old flyhalf and fullback will reunite with former New Zealand coach Steve Hansen, now the director of rugby at Verblitz.
"My family and I are excited to be going back to Japan and to play for Toyota Verblitz," Barrett said through the club. "I thoroughly enjoyed my stint in Japan back in 2021 and learnt a lot both on and off the field."
"I'm also looking forward to reconnecting in the same team with Sir Steve Hansen and having my close friend, Aaron Smith."
The most capped New Zealand scrumhalf of all time with 114 test matches, the 34-year-old Smith said he looked forward to living in Japan after touring the country with the All Blacks.
"I have loved my time in Japan when I have visited with the All Blacks and am excited for my family to share those experiences with me," he said.
Verblitz, based in Toyota, Aichi Prefecture, are currently ninth in the 12-team top division of the domestic competition, now in its second season since rebranding as League One.