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Anscombe reveals how Eddie Jones' pep talk influenced Japanese move

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images)

Gareth Anscombe has spoken about his excitement over a new rugby challenge in Japan but insists he aims to continue his international career. Talking to Sportin Wales, the Rugby World Cup-bound Wales No10 revealed he has signed a two-year deal with Suntory Sungoliath and will relocate to Japan after the upcoming tournament in France.

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He becomes the latest high-profile player to leave Welsh domestic rugby as the regional game re-sets its financial structures after a chaotic season. Anscombe – a co-founder of Sportin Wales magazine alongside Wales teammate Alex Cuthbert – says he is looking forward to continuing his successful top-level career with the five-times Japanese champions.

“I am really excited about the challenge of playing in Japan and for a great club like Suntory, who have always been among the leading clubs there,” he said. “It’s a new country, a fascinating new culture, and a fresh rugby stimulus for me, so it’s all very appealing.

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“It had always been on my to-do list to play in a very different rugby setting and now I have got this opportunity, I feel incredibly grateful. I am looking forward to getting out there in November for the start of their next season, settling in and trying to learn the language, which is important in the position I play where good communication with everyone is vital.”

Anscombe has won 39 Wales caps, so he is well above the WRU 25-cap threshold that enables players based outside the country to continue to be selected. His club commitments for Tokyo-based Suntory will mean he is likely to be unavailable for the 2024 Six Nations, but he has no plans to retire from international rugby.

The 32-year-old added: “I’m probably not going to be available for the Six Nations, but I’d be very keen to have a conversation with Warren Gatland about what role I could play. There is a Wales tour to Australia next summer and I would love to be in contention for that. Playing for Wales means a massive amount to me, and I want to be able to have the honour of that opportunity for as long as possible, however that works out.”

New Zealand-born Anscombe played Super Rugby for the Blues in Auckland, before moving to Wales in 2014 when he joined Cardiff. Qualified to play for Wales through his Welsh mother, he made his Test debut in 2015 and was a key player in the squad that won the Grand Slam in 2019.

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Anscombe moved to the Ospreys that same year, but suffered a serious knee injury that ruled him out of the 2019 World Cup. He fought his way back to fitness and then overcame a shoulder injury suffered last November, before returning for the Ospreys and the Barbarians before the end of last season.

It was during his week with the Baa-Baas before they played at Twickenham in May that Anscombe was able to pick the brains of Australia coach Eddie Jones, a consultant to Suntory Sungoliath. “I had a conversation with Eddie, who obviously knows a great deal about rugby in Japan, and I have also spoken to a few New Zealanders who have either already played there or are considering it.

“The club rugby in Japan is really taking off and it’s a country where the game generally is booming. I loved watching the Japan team at the last World Cup. I thought they were by far the most exciting team in the tournament.”

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