All Blacks and Hurricanes loose forward Ardie Savea will take a six-month offshore playing break in Japan next year.
The 29-year-old will turn out for the Kobelco Kobe Steelers for the 2023 season, which starts after the Rugby World Cup in France.
"Although it's far away, it's nice to have clarity in what I'm doing and I think this change, for a short period of time, will do me and my family good," Savea said.
“Playing in Japan is going to be an awesome experience and I’m ready to embrace their beautiful culture. I can’t wait to meet all the Kobe fans at the games and connect with everyone.”
Under New Zealand Rugby Board policy, Savea will be immediately eligible to be selected by the All Blacks on his return in 2024 - an arrangement made for other long-serving All Blacks such as Beauden Barrett, Brodie Retallick and Samuel Whitelock in recent years.