Japanese Top League side Panasonic Wildknights have confirmed the signing of England lock George Kruis and Wales centre Hadleigh Parkes.
The pair will replace Sam Whitelock, a World Cup winner in 2011 and 2015 with New Zealand, and Damien de Allende, a member of the South Africa side that won the Rugby World Cup title last year.
Kruis and Parkes are set to arrive in Japan in November from England's Saracens and Welsh club Scarlets, respectively, ahead of the 2021 Top League season, which is scheduled to start next January and run through to May.
Panasonic, who won three consecutive Top League titles from 2014-2016, are coached by former Australia coach Robbie Deans.
“I am extremely excited and honoured to take on this new challenge and chapter in my career,” the 30-year-old Kruis said in a statement.
“(I am) joining Robbie Deans and the team at Panasonic Wild Knights at what is a really exciting time for rugby in Japan, following the tremendous World Cup they hosted last year.”
Parkes, who is leaving Pro14 team Scarlets, where he has played since 2014, said he was looking forward to bringing his family to Japan.
“I have known Robbie Deans for a while now, and am sure that the squad and the program he will run will give us the best possible chance of winning silverware,” said the New Zealand-born Parkes.
“I loved my time in Japan over the Rugby World Cup, and am really looking forward to immersing myself, my wife and young daughter into Japanese life once I arrive later in the year.”
George Kruis has signed a one-year contract with the Japanese Top League side. The move to the Ota-based side coached by former Wallabies coach Robbie Deans brings to an end academy graduate Kruis’ 11-year career with Saracens, where he won five Premiership titles and three European Cups.
After joining at 18-years old, Kruis went on to make nearly 200 appearances for Saracens during a period where Saracens became the most successful English club of all time. Kruis also earned international honours during his Saracens’ career, making his England debut in 2014 and has earned 45 caps to date. The lock won back-to-back Six Nations titles in 2016 and 2017, and played in England’s World Cup final against South Africa in 2019.
His international form led to a British and Irish Lions call-up for the New Zealand tour in 2017, where he became a test starter and part of the squad that drew the series.
“I cannot thank all the team and staff at Saracens enough, not only for the time they have put into building me as a player on the field, but as an individual off it," said Kruis.
"I have made lifelong friendships and memories that will carry on way past my playing career. Although this has clearly been a tough decision, I am extremely excited and honoured to take on this new challenge and chapter in my career, joining Robbie Deans and the team at Panasonic Wildknights at what is a really exciting time for rugby in Japan, following the tremendous World Cup they hosted last year."
With his move to Japan, the 32-year-old Parkes, however, is set to bring his international career to a close, given the Welsh Rugby Union's policy of only picking players based in Wales. In 2014, he moved from his native New Zealand to Wales, for whom he has won 29 caps.
"I am very honored at the opportunity to join such a prestigious team as the Panasonic Wild Knights. I have known Robbie Deans for a while now, and am sure that the squad and the program he will run will give us the best possible chance of winning silverware," said Parkes.
After arriving at the Scarlets in 2014, Parkes became eligible to play for Wales in 2017 and scored two tries on his debut against South Africa.
Parkes played 29 internationals for Wales and was part of the 2019 Grand Slam-winning side and the team that reached the World Cup semi-finals the same year. He will no longer be eligible to play for Wales.