All Blacks skipper Sam Cane exits Chiefs for short-term contract in Japan

All Blacks skipper Sam Cane exits Chiefs for short-term contract in Japan

Chiefs and All Blacks skipper Sam Cane will play his club rugby in Japan with Tokyo Sungoliath for most of 2024 before heading back to New Zealand later that year.

The 95-Test veteran will not be part of the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific campaign with the Chiefs but will return to New Zealand in June to be available for selection for the All Blacks' series against England and their Rugby Championship campaign.

The 32-year-old has a deal with New Zealand Rugby (NZR) and the Chiefs through to the end of 2025 and is keen to experience a new playing environment with Tokyo Sungoliath and learning more about a new culture in Japan.

"When the opportunity to play for Suntory (Tokyo Sungoliath) 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," said Cane. "I'm grateful to New Zealand Rugby for their support to take this opportunity.

"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."

NZR chief executive Mark Robinson said Cane's decision has his organisation's blessing.

"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," he remarked.

"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."

Chiefs head coach Clayton McMillan said he understands Cane's reasoning behind his decision.

"Sam has given everything to this team on and off the field and deserves to take this opportunity to experience something different," he 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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