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Former All Blacks captain Kieran Read 'not really keen' to return to Japan; admits playing days could be over

(Photo by Kaz Photography/Getty Images)

By Christopher Reive, NZ Herald

Former All Blacks captain Kieran Read has admitted he’s unlikely to return to Japan this season despite the Top League rugby competition working to return in the coming months.

The 128-cap All Black, who signed with Toyota Verblitz on a two-year deal through to the end of the 2021 season, was back in New Zealand this week, and told Radio Sport‘s Jim Kayes he had no interest in returning to Japan while the coronavirus pandemic was still prominent.

“Nah, not really,” he said. “Not in the current climate and with everything going on, I just want to be here with my family.

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“It definitely won’t be for me this season. They’re looking at playing in May which I just don’t see happening when they’ve cancelled an event that is over four months away in the Olympics.

“I think I’ll be at home until we actually know how this thing’s going to play out, which I think is going to be a few months or more I guess.”

When asked if not returning to Japan would be the end of his playing days, Read said it was very much a wait and see situation.

“I am contracted for next year in Japan and I guess we’ll just wait and see what happens with this virus. If it’s all gone out of the world and people are travelling around then potentially I could be back up there.”

Read returned to New Zealand this week to be with his family during the nationwide coronavirus lockdown, a move made by a number of Kiwi rugby players currently signed in Japan.

“It was a pretty crazy time when we found out on Monday what was happening in New Zealand, it was pretty essential.

“My family was back here already which I was thankful for, but yeah, I guess you need to be home as quickly as you could.”

Read’s family joined him in Japan when he moved over to play, but returned home after the schools were closed in early March. The 34-year-old remained in Japan for another week in case there was word on the immediate future of the competition.

“We thought there’s no point hanging around here if we get stuck in a Japan house, which is not too big, it would probably do us all in.

“Obviously things took a turn for the worse. I was prepared to come back and whatever happens with my contract up there, I’m not too sure as yet. But it was more important to come back.”

With a number of Kiwis plying their trade in Japan, Read said there would be some who stay in Japan given the uncertainty of the competition and, subsequently, player contracts.

“I think the majority have come home…everyone was quite in the dark over what each club was going to do because they don’t have a central system and Japan rugby is very late on making decisions about competitions. They haven’t actually ruled out the competition next – we’re supposed to be playing in May, which seems ridiculous.

“Some guys couldn’t really risk their contracts to come back to New Zealand and potentially have a loss on them. So some guys have stayed up there, and it is relatively safe there at the moment; it’s not in lockdown or anything, but I guess for the majority wanting to be home with family it was probably a bit easier, and knowing your own healthcare system, if things did go to the worse up there in Japan.”

This article first appeared on and was republished with permission.

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