Brodie Retallick made it clear he won't be joining Sale but that doesn't make his presence in New Zealand next year any more likely with Japanese club Kobe headlining the list of suitors.

The kind of money touted to be on offer for Retallick at English club Sale ($NZ$1.9 million) once again puts in perspective retention challenges facing New Zealand Rugby.

When Retallick and Julian Savea signed respective four-year contracts back in 2015, they were for around $800,000 annually.

Previous European sums at the $1.9m levels were, at that stage, reserved for premier playmakers – the Dan Carter's of the rugby world.

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Outside backs have since kicked down the door with Charles Piutau now touted as the highest paid player in the game at Pat Lam's Bristol.

Retallick's influence as the world's best lock and 2014 player of the year is,
clearly, breaking barriers around what forwards can expect to earn here and abroad.

This is why NZ Rugby is very open about the fact they will work with the likes of Retallick and Beauden Barrett to allow top end players to take sabbatical options, in what are still expected to be long-term commitments through to the World Cup in 2023.

Japan appears a much more likely destination for Retallick to take a potential year-long spell out of New Zealand, and the Herald understands Kobe are leading negotiations for the 27-year-old's services.

Japan's double season lure in 2020 has been well documented. All Blacks captain Kieran Read is among those expected to feature there next year.

With Wayne Smith on board as general manager, and former Chiefs player development manager Dave Dillon the head coach, connections for Retallick at Kobe are clear.

This year the Dillon-Smith combination guided Kobe to their second Top League title with a 55-5 victory over Suntory in the final.

With a squad that included Dan Carter, Richard Buckman, Andy Ellis, Tom Franklin, Hayden Parker, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Codey Rei it is not hard to see why.

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The club is, no doubt, keen to continue such success. Their pursuit of Retallick certainly signals those ambitions.