Retallick set for ‘final third’ of his career

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Japan's Top League, where he plays for the Kobelco Steelers, should have started on January 16 but was pushed back a month due to the Covid-19 pandemic. His first season with the side was reduced to six weeks with the onset of the pandemic.


That enforced break to his first season allowed him an extra 10 weeks for a break during which time he returned to New Zealand, and declined an offer to join the Gallagher Chiefs for Sky Super Rugby Aotearoa. That was because it would have defeated the purpose of his sabbatical.


"I was actually sitting at home watching Super Rugby Aotearoa, and I was pretty glad of my decision," he told Tom Vinicombe in an exclusive interview with The XV.


"It was pretty brutal, those Kiwi teams going at it each weekend – but I'll look forward to doing that when I get back," he said.


"I did a little bit of training during quarantine, just because it was something to do when we weren't allowed outside, but in terms of actual rugby stuff, I just put it to the side, let the body do its own thing and heal."


Retallick said he had enjoyed using the pre-season time to regain shoulder and knee strength, and stability through his hips.


"I'm pretty happy with where my body's at. Obviously, you can only do so much prevention, and what will be, will be, but I feel like it's certainly paid off," he said.



That left him hankering to return to play.


"In terms of the body, it's probably one of the best spots I've had it in the last six or seven years, so to get robbed of those first few rounds has been a little disappointing."


Retallick had been looking to his future in taking his enforced break from the New Zealand game and believes it will be good for him.


"Coming to a new environment and playing with different players, hearing new ideas and getting out of my comfort zone has been awesome," he said.


Retallick said with increasing injuries affecting him in the lead-up to the 2019 Rugby World Cup he felt he had been paying for the intense start he had to his professional career in 2012.


"Looking back over the last two or three years, I don't know whether those sorts of injuries that started to catch up on me were a price of playing a lot of rugby in those early years or not, I'm not sure. But coming to Japan was definitely a result of how much rugby I played in those first five or six years," he said.


Retallick hinted that with time out from the New Zealand scene, he felt he had at least two more seasons with the Chiefs ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Then it would be a case of considering whether to retire or to return for another stint in Japan.


"I have a rough idea in my head on how I plan on doing the last third of my career. Whether that goes to plan, or whether I have a change of mind, I'm not sure. But I've got a family, so you have to think about these things," he said.


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