As Beauden Barrett prepares for his lengthy – non-playing - sabbatical before joining the Blues midway through next season, every rugby club in Auckland and further afield would do well to prepare their pitches for the two-time world player of the year.

That's because the former Hurricanes first-five will almost certainly play at least one club game before he joins Leon MacDonald's side, and the reflected glory, not to mention the publicity caused by the media scramble, could keep a club going for years.

MacDonald isn't sure exactly when the All Blacks playmaker, who has played 83 tests and set the recent World Cup alight before he and his side crashed into England's stubborn white wall in the semifinal, will play his first game for the Blues, other than "mid-season".

"His negotiations were a little unique; they were off to the side," MacDonald told the Herald of Barrett's Blues deal. "Now that there's a new CEO, there's paperwork that has to be handed over … also, the World Cup is over. That's all happening right now so when I find out you guys will too. I know roughly when – it's mid-season."


MacDonald did confirm, however, that Barrett, 28, wouldn't be playing while he's away.

"Not on his sabbatical he's not; it's full rest. He will want to play some games before he plays for the Blues, obviously. He'll need to come back at some level, whether it's through club rugby or something else. He would have spent a lot of time away from the game."

Mid-season for the Blues would mean late March. MacDonald's side, who begin their season with a match against the Chiefs at Eden Park on January 31, have the first of their two byes on the weekend of March 28-29.

Beauden Barrett. Photo / Getty
Beauden Barrett. Photo / Getty

If Barrett plays a club match that weekend, and the one after, when the Blues are in Christchurch playing the defending champion Crusaders, the potentially delicious possibility of a first Blues game against the Hurricanes at Eden Park on the afternoon of Saturday, April 11 suddenly presents itself.

It would be the dream scenario for the Blues marketing team but for now it will have to wait.

In the meantime, MacDonald, who will guide his side through two pre-season matches before the earlier than usual start to the season – created because the competition will run through in its entirety before the July test window – must consider what players he does have.

He said he was expecting his other All Blacks to be available from the start, including lock Patrick Tuipulotu although they will go through a "return-to-play" protocol of restricted minutes. MacDonald was wary about naming a captain for the year without conferring with those who hadn't yet returned; Tuipulotu and Blake Gibson shared the role this year.

And while Barrett, Rieko Ioane and Matt Duffie are easily the most experienced players in his backline, MacDonald doesn't see inexperience as an issue.


"Our 9s (Finlay Christie, Sam Nock and Jonathan Ruru) are relatively experienced. TJ [Faiane] has been around for a while now. I don't know if we're less experienced than other teams, it would be interesting to see some numbers on it, but it doesn't feel like a young group. We've recruited guys like Jordan Hyland just so we've got some older heads who have been around the game. Although they're not hugely experienced in terms of caps, they're experienced in terms of rugby."