Putting aside for a moment the growing impression that the act of tackling in the top Japanese rugby competition appears to be recommended but ultimately optional, Sir John Kirwan is right – there's no way Beauden Barrett or Brodie Retallick should walk back into the All Blacks' starting line-up on their returns.
And that's not because the lightweight game at the home of the Brave Blossoms isn't conducive to preparing for test rugby - just that the pair simply don't deserve their places back straight away.
It may of course be a moot point once July rolls around because the way several senior All Blacks are falling over injured during Super Rugby Aotearoa – Sam Cane, Joe Moody, Jack Goodhue and Ardie Savea so far – head coach Ian Foster's selection job for the tests against Italy and Fiji (if they go ahead) may not be that difficult; just pick the best 23 still standing.
But if Richie Mo'unga and Scott Barrett survive unscathed at the Crusaders and Jordie Barrett, Damian McKenzie and Patrick Tuipulotu do likewise at the Hurricanes, Chiefs and Blues respectively, then on the face of it Foster has some difficult decisions to make because how to fairly factor in the returns of Barrett and Retallick – two greats of the game - is shaping up to be the proverbial riddle wrapped in a mystery tied up in a conundrum.
Except, it's probably not that difficult, really.
Barrett and Retallick earned their sabbaticals in Japan through long and occasionally glorious service with New Zealand rugby. They are also former world player of the year winners and two players essential to the All Blacks until at least the 2023 World Cup (likely to be Retallick's swansong).
Their lucrative break clauses were embedded in their contracts. Everyone in the Kiwi game knew they were going and coming back and yet if they are expecting to walk back into the starting side they should be disappointed because there's no way first-five Mo'unga should make way for Beauden Barrett. The same applies to Barrett at fullback and brother Jordie or McKenzie, two increasingly influential players in Super Rugby Aotearoa.
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And for all Retallick's importance to New Zealand (the All Blacks missed him massively during last year's Rugby Championship), there's no way he should be immediately selected ahead of Scott Barrett or Patrick Tuipulotu (Sam Whitelock is almost certain to be captain following Cane's chest surgery).
Skipper Scott Barrett has been inspirational at the Crusaders, as has Tuipulotu, another captain (albeit an injured one due to a neck issue), at the Blues. They have grafted and probably taken their games to new levels as a result.
Foster must remain loyal to the two travellers who have given so much to the Kiwi game, but to overlook those who have remained at the coalface in order to accommodate them would be an insult to the stayers and Super Rugby Aotearoa.
Sir John Kirwan, the former All Blacks wing, probably overstepped the mark in insisting New Zealand Rugby should not re-sign halfback TJ Perenara when he returns from NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes in Japan. Perenara is off contract after this year.
The Hurricanes have already said they want him back, as do Wellington presumably, and given Perenara's service to those teams plus the All Blacks, it would seem certain that another contract will be offered, and fair enough.
But an All Black selection is another matter. Brad Weber has proven an able and intelligent back-up to Aaron Smith, with 21-year-old Folau Fakatava – a big point of difference given his physical strength and combativeness - waiting in the wings once he recovers from a knee injury which will keep him out for the rest of the year at least.
In Fakatava's absence, it's time Foster looked elsewhere for a young halfback who offers something different, and one who has been playing in what must rate as the world's toughest domestic competition. It's time to give the Blues' Finlay Christie or Crusader Mitchell Drummond a go.