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All Blacks captain Sam Cane signs short-term deal in Japan

By Finn Morton
Sam Cane of New Zealand looks on during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 semi-final match between Argentina and New Zealand at Stade de France on October 20, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Franco Arland/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

All Blacks captain Sam Cane will play for Tokyo Sungoliath in the upcoming Japan Rugby League One season, but the flanker will still be available for international duty in July.

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Following a report from New Zealand website Stuff on Friday morning, New Zealand Rugby has officially confirmed that captain Cane is off to Japan.

When Cane re-signed with NZR in December 2021, there was a sabbatical clause included in his contract for after the 2023 Rugby World Cup. At the time, Cane said he was “leaning to not using it,” but the 31-year-old has since come around to the idea.

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The 95-Test veteran will link up with the likes of former Wallabies backrower Sean McMahon, Wales playmaker Gareth Anscombe and two-time Rugby World Cup-winning wing Cheslin Kolbe at the Japanese club.

But when one door opens another closes. Cane will miss the entirety of next year’s Super Rugby Pacific campaign with championship hopefuls the Chiefs.

“When the opportunity to play for Suntory in 2024 came up it felt like the right time following the Rugby World Cup to try something new and also a great chance to continue to grow and learn in my rugby and life journey,” Cane said in a statement.

“I’m grateful to New Zealand Rugby for their support to take this opportunity.

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“It wasn’t an easy decision to skip a season with the Chiefs, but I know the team is in a great place and has an incredible group of leaders in the squad and the coaching group to have a successful 2024, and I’m really pleased to be able to return in time to put my best foot forward for selection in the All Blacks.”

As confirmed by New Zealand Rugby on Friday afternoon, Cane will be available to don the coveted black jersey during the 2024 Steinlager Series and Rugby Championship.

World Rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Year Ardie Savea is in the same boat after signing a lucrative short-term deal in Japan.

“Sam’s decision to take a sabbatical in 2024 has our full support and we wish him and his family all the best for their time in Japan,” NZR CEO Mark Robinson added.

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“There are very few players who have given as much as he has to the jerseys he’s worn in his career to date and it’s a mark of his commitment to the All Blacks that he will return and make himself available for the Test season.”

The absence of Sam Cane is another tough blow for the Chiefs after losing former All Black backrower Pita Gus Sowakula earlier this year. Sowakula signed with French giants Clermont on a two-year deal.

But the future is still bright in Hamilton. Former New Zealand U20s captain Luke Jacobson has recently re-signed with the franchise for a further two years.

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Coach Clayton McMillan was supportive of Cane’s decision to take up a sabbatical overseas “after a full-on year” which included losses in the Super Rugby Pacific and Rugby World Cup finals.

“Sam has given everything to this team on and off the field and deserves to take this opportunity to experience something different,” McMillan said.

“He is an exceptional player and influential leader who has been an integral part of the Gallagher Chiefs for many years. We wish him and his family all the best and hope they enjoy their time in Japan after a full-on year.”

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Comments

5 Comments
d
darth 221 days ago

Best thing for him. Put some distance between him and loosing the finals for the kiwis

B
Bob Marler 221 days ago

I feel for the chap. Japan is a good place to get back into form.

K
Ken 221 days ago

Does this look like running away to anyone else?

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