All Blacks star Rieko Ioane to move to Japan following Rugby World Cup, Auckland Blues, Japanese League One competition

Not even private equity can stop the player drain in New Zealand, with Rieko Ioane the latest All Blacks star set to head north to the Japanese League One competition.

The Roar can reveal that Ioane, 25, is set to join Ricoh Black Rams after the 2023 World Cup in the latest blow to New Zealand.

The flying outside back has been a mainstay in the All Blacks ever since he broke onto the scene in 2017, where he won the World Rugby’s breakthrough player of the year.

In his infancy, Ioane was arguably the world’s best winger. Now, Ioane has developed into the most lethal outside centre on the globe.

But his decision to join Ricoh is another blow for the All Blacks, with cashed-up sides in Japan proving an unstoppable force for the New Zealand Rugby to handle despite the governing body’s $NZ200 million sugar hit from private equity firm Silver Lake.

Rieko Ioane of the All Blacks celebrates victory during The Rugby Championship & Bledisloe Cup match between the Australia Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks at Marvel Stadium on September 15, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Rieko Ioane is set to move to Ricoh following the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

At least half of the All Blacks starting side will head up to Japan at year’s end, with Ioane joining the likes of backs Richie Mo’unga, Beauden Barrett and Aaron Smith as well as forwards Ardie Savea, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock and Shannon Frizell.

Others like David Havili and Will Jordan are also said to be weighing up their careers in New Zealand. It means their next generation will be thrown into the deep end for the 2024 Bledisloe Cup.

While a number of the aforementioned names are coming to the end of their international careers, the loss of Ioane would be a seismic blow for the All Blacks given his age and profile.

Ioane is at the peak of his powers and remains one of the best finishers in the world.

It took him three years to become an established centre, but Ioane showed last year that he is on the cusp of entering world-class status as a midfielder too.

Rieko Ioane

Rieko Ioane has been one of the most damaging backs on the globe since debuting in 2016. Photo: Albert Perez/Getty Images

The mass exodus, which is likely different from the exodus following the 2015 World Cup victory where a generation of players were ready to step up, will stretch the All Blacks’ 20-year stranglehold over the Wallabies with the Bledisloe Cup.

Unlike the All Blacks, Australia is likely to hold onto the vast majority of their players with less than a handful of regular first XV Wallabies weighing up moves offshore.

Helping Rugby Australia’s cause to keep players Down Under is the major events on the horizon, with a British and Irish Lions series in 2025 to be followed by a home World Cup in 2027.

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