Andy Ellis heading to Japan
June 27, 2014
Andy Ellis will not play for Canterbury in the ITM Cup this season © Getty Images
The trickle of players heading to Japan is threatening to become a flow after Crusaders' scrum-half Andy Ellis signed for Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers.
Ellis will miss the domestic ITM Cup season in New Zealand to play in Japan's Top League, returning to the Crusaders fold next year to press his claim for a place in the All Blacks squad for the 2015 World Cup.
"I love playing for Canterbury and the Crusaders and I would love the chance to represent New Zealand again if the opportunity ever came up,'' said Ellis, who played the last of his 26 Tests in the 2011 Rugby World Cup final.
''This is certainly not a sign of my playing days in New Zealand coming to an end," Ellis told Fairfax Media in New Zealand. "I am just fortunate to have the ability to play rugby in Japan, which is something I've always wanted to do, and then return home to continue with the Crusaders.''
Crusaders head coach Todd Blackadder said Ellis went to Japan with his blessing.
"Andy has been such a loyal servant to New Zealand rugby and he fully deserves this opportunity to go and gain some international experience," Blackadder said. "We are especially pleased that he's committed to returning to the Crusaders at the end of his season in Kobe.
"Andy has so much more to offer New Zealand rugby so it is fantastic that he continues to see his future here."
Ellis becomes the latest Super Rugby player to move to Japan. He joins the likes of Schalk Burger and Frans Steyn in moving to the Top League as the profile of rugby in the Asian nation grows. Japan recently broke into the world's top ten for the first time in their history.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd