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Japan rugby lures Kruis, Parkes

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England lock George Kruis (above) has signed to play for Panasonic Wild Knights in next year’s Japanese Top League. AFP

Japan rugby lures Kruis, Parkes

England lock George Kruis and Welsh centre Hadleigh Parkes have signed to play for Panasonic Wild Knights in next year’s Japanese Top League, the rugby club announced on Monday.

Kruis, capped 45 times for his country and once for the British and Irish Lions, featured at last year’s World Cup but coach Eddie Jones mainly used the 30-year-old as a substitute in England’s run to the final.

New Zealand-born Parkes, 32, was an ever-present for the Welsh side that lost in the semi-finals to eventual champions South Africa.

For the Scarlets player, the decision effectively means an end to his international career and he told the BBC that moving to Japan “certainly wasn’t a quick or easy decision”.

“But when you have to weigh up your family’s future, it is an incredible opportunity for us and we are really excited about what lies ahead,” said Parkes in his BBC online column.

Welsh rules mean someone playing outside Wales can only be selected for the national team if he has already won 60 caps or is uncapped. Parkes has won 29.

Former Saracen Kruis, on the other hand, refused to see the move to Japan as calling time on his international career.

“I would like to think there is plenty left in the legs and this is definitely not an England retirement,” he told British media.

Kruis and Parkes are following the well-trodden route of a short spell in Japan towards the end of their careers – a path taken by some of the legends of the game.

Former All Blacks fly-half Dan Carter was perhaps the highest profile of these, recently announcing he was leaving the Kobelco Steelers after taking them to the 2018-2019 Top League title.

The next Japanese Top League season is slated to begin in January after the coronavirus forced the cancellation of the 2020 edition.

The Panasonic Wild Knights, coached by former Wallabies coach Robbie Deans, won three straight Top League titles from 2014-2016.


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