Hawke’s Bay lock Warner Dearns could play for Japan at the Rugby World Cup in 2023 and then return to New Zealand to chase an All Blacks shirt as World Rugby’s change in eligibility continues to offer new possibilities to all players.
Dearns, who just turned 20 and measures 202cm and 124kg, is currently playing in Japan Rugby League One under Todd Blackadder at Toshiba Brave Lupus, who has just qualified for the semi-finals of the rapidly improving competition.
He was crowned by Brave Blossoms manager Jamie Joseph last year after initially joining the Japanese side as a development player, and although a long career for his ‘second home’ is shaping up clearly he says he would be open to openings from New Zealand rugby and change his test of allegiance to the All Blacks.
“Ever since I was a kid I always wanted to play Super Rugby,” said Dearns from Japan. “Obviously as a young boy, growing up in New Zealand, you always want to put on that black jersey.
* ‘Throwback’: Former All Black Tom Taylor delivers blunt criticism of New Zealand rugby
* Highlanders start looking for new head coach for 2023
* Owen Franks targets All Blacks ahead of long-awaited Hurricanes debut
* NZ Rugby to lose government funding after failing to meet board gender diversity quota
* “I heard about it for the first time”: Razor plays down rumors of Crusader demise
“Coming here, and having spent a lot of time in high school here and playing a test now for Japan, I feel like it’s like a second home right now.
“At the moment my goal is to play the next World Cup, this France World Cup for Japan, but if an opportunity arose that was intriguing, I would definitely take a look and see what were my options.”
Dearns’ mother is former Silver Ferns player Tanya, while father Grant is a strength and conditioning coach whose work has taken him from NPC Magpies to Japanese competition.
Dearns spent two years in high school in New Zealand – one year at Napier Boys’ and one year at Scots College, Wellington – before the family moved to Japan.
He completed his studies in Japan and received offers to return to New Zealand, but a conversation with Blackadder convinced him that his development would be better served in Japan.
“Pretty early in 2020, before Covid hit, I had a catch-up with Todd Blackadder. I was able to meet him, talk to him and make him think about different things,” Dearns said.
“It was really interesting talking to him, and I was like, ‘He’s a guy I want to learn from’. Obviously he had a lot of experience as a coach and a lot of experience in as a player.
“Michael Leitch and Matt Todd happened to play for the team he was coaching.
“So when I had the opportunity to come to Toshiba, I jumped on it, because of the experience and everything I could learn from those kind of guys.
“Looking at the options in New Zealand, it would have been difficult to come in and start from scratch, go to an academy or something, where there’s also a lot of talent.
“So to be here and have this opportunity, I thought that was probably the best thing for me.”
World Rugby’s change in eligibility means players can change test teams once in their career, if they observe a 36-month waiting period, while obviously demonstrating strong ties to the country in which they live. they’re moving.
Locks of Dearns’ stature doesn’t grow on trees, and his appeal to NZ Rugby could grow if he makes a mark for Japan in France next year.
Temperamentally, he is said to share many of Blackadder’s traits – smart and hardworking yet humble – and the All Blacks could even come up against him if they face Japan ahead of their three-Test tour of Europe in november.
“There are a few games coming up soon that I would like to be in as well,” said Dearns, whose favorite player is Brodie Retallick. “Uruguay and France, I would love to be part of these games [for Japan in the July test window].
“But looking forward, it would be great to be on the pitch against the All Blacks. It would be a huge opportunity.”