The 33-year-old loose forward is widely expected to take up an offshore deal after 11 years of service for the All Blacks, telling the New Zealand Herald last year that he would step down from the national side after the World Cup.
Since then, Read had been linked with moves to Europe, with RMC reporting that French club Racing 92 tabled him a three-year contract worth NZ$6 million to join their star-studded squad to play alongside fellow New Zealanders Dominic Bird and Joe Rokocoko.
However, it is understood a switch to the Japanese Top League beckons.
While L’Equipe last month suggested that a potential move to the Kobelco Steelers to play with former teammates Dan Carter and Andy Ellis was on the cards, RugbyPass understands that Toyota Verblitz stands as the club most likely to acquire Read’s services.
The three-time Japanese champions are coached by former World Cup-winning Springboks coach Jake White, and feature multiple Japanese internationals and a handful of foreign players, including New Zealanders Shneil Singh and Steven Yates.
A move to Japan appears to be the best option for Read after the World Cup.
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.
Since his test debut against Scotland in 2008, Read has gone on to rack up 118 test caps, has claimed two World Cup titles in 2011 and 2015, and won World Player of the Year in 2013.
The Rugby Explorer with Jim Hamilton:
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