Beauden Barrett has hinted that he may opt to play in Japan after the World Cup. Photo: REUTERS/Marcos Brindicc

TOKYO, Japan - New Zealand fly half Beauden Barrett has hinted that he may take a playing sabbatical in Japan following the 2019 World Cup.

Speaking in Tokyo ahead of the third Bledisloe Cup clash with Australia, Barrett suggested he could be open to returning to Japan after competing for the All Blacks in next year's showpiece event.

"There is a lot to like about Japan," the two-time world player of the year told reporters. "What I can say is there is good open communication with the coaches, my management and NZR (New Zealand Rugby) and I am happy that at the right time I will make the right decision."

In the past, NZR has allowed sabbaticals to players like Richie McCaw and Dan Carter. With the country hosting the World Cup, there will be no domestic Top League rugby competition in Japan in 2019 and it remains to be seen what structure Japanese rugby takes the following year.

The 27-year-old Hurricanes player,  who is set to win his 70th All Blacks cap, is hoping to lead New Zealand to a 3-0 sweep of Australia with victory in the third Bledisloe Cup test in Yokohama on Saturday. New Zealand are heavily favoured to win the game, but Barrett cautioned against over-confidence earlier this week.

"We always get a confident Australia, there's no doubt about that," he told reporters. "They've probably rediscovered that bit of belief that may have been missing. It was a great comeback, we acknowledge that - be we weren't surprised to see them come back.

"We can't take for granted that we're going to just keep winning. There's no secret recipe - we just have to keep working hard. We have high standards and we have to be accountable. It's a serious business."

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