Leitch to ditch Chiefs for Sunwolves
Tokyo - Japan rugby captain Michael Leitch said he will leave New Zealand's Chiefs after this season with an eye towards joining Japanese side Sunwolves, according to an interview published on Tuesday.
The planned move should help him and Japan build themselves up for the home 2019 Rugby World Cup, Leitch told nzcity.co.nz.
Leitch was the skipper of the Japanese national team Brave Blossoms during their showing in the 2015 World Cup, when they pulled off a stunning upset victory against South Africa.
He said the decision to quit the Chiefs came after Colin Cooper was named to coach the New Zealand team from next year and Canadian forward Tyler Ardron brought in as his replacement.
"I love playing for the Chiefs but they're looking to build for the future with Colin Cooper coming in and they wanted to sign their key players pretty soon so I had to make the decision," he said.
By returning to Japan, his adopted homeland, New Zealand-born Leitch said he will be closer to Jamie Joseph, who coaches the Brave Blossoms.
After the ongoing Super Rugby season ends, Leitch will play for the Toshiba Brave Lupus Club in Japan's Top League, which will begin its season in August.
"We're just going to see how the schedule looks and how the Top League season goes, and what type of contract we can negotiate," Leitch said.
"In order to play for Japan at the World Cup you need to be playing for the Sunwolves in 2019 but I guess if Jamie wants me in the mix next season I will be playing for them," he said.