In the aftermath of the Rugby World Cup, New Zealand’s star fly-half Richie Mo’unga has set his sights on a prolonged career in Japan.
Following the All Blacks’ journey to the World Cup final, where South Africa narrowly defeated them, Mo’unga has embarked on a new chapter with Japanese Rugby League One side Toshiba Brave Lupus.
Mo’unga’s move to Japan was preceded by a three-year deal signed before the World Cup, temporarily pausing his international career to commit to his new club fully.
The 29-year-old, fresh from a successful stint with the Crusaders that yielded seven Super Rugby titles, expressed his dedication to Toshiba in a recent statement to reporters in Japan.
“Focused on the present, I just want to give all I can to Toshiba. I really can see myself playing here as long as I can until I retire,” Mo’unga affirmed.
His commitment to Toshiba marks a departure from the traditional New Zealand rugby pathway, where players often prioritise international duty.
Mo’unga’s fellow All Black, Shannon Frizell, has also joined Toshiba, while other World Cup teammates such as Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Sam Cane, and Ardie Savea have also embraced Japanese club rugby.
Cane and Savea have opted for short-term sabbatical deals, intending to return for All Blacks duties next year. In contrast, Mo’unga’s move appears more permanent, with the fly-half expressing that, at this point, the All Blacks are distant.
“This isn’t a rest for me; it’s not a one-year thing. I’m fully involved and fully committed,” he clarified, dismissing the term ‘sabbatical.’
Mo’unga’s shift to Japan renders him ineligible for future All Blacks selections, a decision he forewarned earlier in the year, suggesting that more New Zealand players might explore overseas opportunities at a younger age.
Having earned his 56th Test cap in the World Cup final against South Africa, Mo’unga, who has spent his entire career in Canterbury, is eager for the challenge of a new environment.
He expressed his anticipation for the upcoming Japanese season, set to kick off in early December, with his likely tournament debut against the Shizuoka Blue Revs on December 9.