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Ex-All Blacks fly-half Aaron Cruden confirms his new Japanese club

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Former All Blacks fly-half Aaron Cruden has confirmed the identity of his new club in Japan, the ex-Test level player announcing he has moved from Kobe Steelers to Suntory Sungoliath in Tokyo for the upcoming 2023 Top League season.

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Cruden made a March 2021 debut with the Steelers but he has now moved on after two campaigns with them, linking up with Sungoliath who no longer have Milton Haig, another Kiwi, in charge of their team.

“I am very excited to be joining Tokyo Sungoliath this season,” said Cruden on his new club’s website. “The club has a great history and a strong legacy. I look forward to working hard with my teammates to contribute both on and off the field. To all the fans, we can’t wait to see you all at the games. Your support means so much to the team.”

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Cruden, the 50-cap former All Blacks pick who turns 34 on January 8, headed for Japan after a Super Rugby stint back at the Chiefs following three seasons in France with Montpellier. He made his last Test-level appearance for New Zealand in the 2017 Test series versus the British and Irish Lions.

Coach Haig, meanwhile, opted to get into the club game in Japan after his eight-year stint in charge of Georgia culminated in their appearance at the 2019 World Cup in the Far East. His involvement at the club helped to pave the way for England coach Eddie Jones to visit regularly as a consultant.

“I’ve decided to relocate back to New Zealand due to family reasons,” he explained amid rumours that player power helped to force his decision. “I’m very appreciative of the opportunity to be involved with Sungoliath and I wish them all the very best for the future. I will follow their upcoming season with interest this year.”

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