As reported by RugbyPass last month, Read confirmed he had signed his deal with Top League club Toyota Verblitz where former South African coach Jake White is currently the head coach. Read said he will look back on his New Zealand Rugby career at the end of the year with pride.
“Every young rugby player in New Zealand dreams of the opportunities I have had to represent the All Blacks and the Crusaders, and I know I’ll look back at the end of the year with a great deal of pride to have worn those jerseys for as long as I have,” he said in a statement.
“My family and I are looking forward to an overseas experience and Japan presents an awesome opportunity to immerse ourselves in Japanese culture as part of the Toyota club.
“I feel the time is right to make this announcement on my playing future, so that I can focus my efforts on the season ahead.”
Is was speculated that Read may join his former Crusaders teammate Dan Carter at Kobe Steel, where former All Blacks assistant Wayne Smith is also involved. Another Crusader and All Black, Ryan Crotty is understood to have signed with Kubota Spears.
The Crusaders Number 8 will attempt to sign-off his 118-cap test career with a three-peat of Super Rugby titles and another World Cup winners medal in Japan.
There would be plenty of appeal of playing in a less physical competition such as the Top League in comparison to the European competitions for Read, especially after significant surgeries on his wrist and back ruled him out of large chunks of the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
Additionally, the prospect of a ‘double season’ in Japan next year as a result of the nation hosting the World Cup in six months’ time would result in a large payday, while the geographic proximity of Japan to New Zealand in comparison to Europe is another selling point for Read and his young family.
Read would join the growing exodus of players heading overseas following the World Cup, with Ben Smith (Pau), Owen Franks (Northampton), Waisake Naholo (London Irish), Nehe Milner-Skudder (Toulon), Jordan Taufua (Leicester Tigers), Matt Proctor (Northampton), Jeffery Toomaga-Allen (Wasps) and Liam Squire (NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes) all confirmed departures.
New Zealand Rugby CEO Steve Tew paid tribute to the departing captain.
“We want to wish Kieran all the very best for his swansong season in New Zealand Rugby. He’s been one of the most influential players in the world in his 13 years at the top of the professional game, an outstanding and hugely-respected All Blacks Captain, and an All Blacks centurion.
“We owe ‘Reado’ and others like him, who have given so much to our teams, a huge debt of gratitude. We wish him, wife Bridget and his family all the best for their adventures next year,” said Tew.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen praised his leadership in shaping the All Blacks since taking over from Richie McCaw after the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
“On behalf of New Zealand Rugby and the All Blacks, I’d like to acknowledge the fantastic contribution that Reado has made to our game. His performances on the park speak for themselves: he’s played 118 tests and started 111 of them, which is an outstanding achievement,” said Hansen.
“However, that is only part of the Kieran Read story. His contribution off the park has been just as impressive. He’s developed into a fantastic leader, who has the utmost respect of all his peers.
“What he has achieved has been remarkable, and its fair to say that he is one of the greats of our game who has enhanced the legacy of not only the All Blacks jersey but also the Crusaders jersey. We wish him, Bridget and the kids all the very best in their next rugby chapter.”
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