Kaino quits NZ for Japan

2012-03-23 09:19

Auckland - Rugby World Cup winner Jerome Kaino will leave New Zealand to play rugby in Japan after signing a two-year deal with club side Toyota, officials said on Friday.

The loose forward was one of the stars of New Zealand's Rugby World Cup triumph last year, playing all but one minute of the All Blacks' campaign and claiming the 2011 New Zealand player of the year award.

The 28-year-old, who was also a finalist for world player of the year, has played 48 Tests for the All Blacks, scoring eight tries.

He had surgery earlier this month after suffering a shoulder injury playing for the Auckland Blues Super 15 team, which is expected to sideline him for at least six months.

New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew said he was sad to see Kaino go but wished him well in Japan.

"We made a very strong bid to keep him here in New Zealand and would have loved for him to stay but, ultimately, we understand his decision," Tew said.

Kaino said leaving New Zealand was a difficult decision but he still had the option of returning to challenge for a place in the All Blacks squad for the 2015 World Cup in England.

"This is only for now, that's what I wanted to do," he said. "I wanted to get some experience overseas and in a couple of years' time probably come back and challenge for that jersey again."

It was a possibility that Blues chief executive Andy Dalton would not discount, commenting: "I very much hope to see him back here one day in the Blues jersey - and the black one."