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Volume 7 No. 149
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Japan Offering All Blacks An Alternative To European Rugby

All Black Sonny Bill Williams played for the Wild Knights in Japan's Top League during the '12-13 season.
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Japan's "rise as the destination of choice" for leading All Blacks signals a "significant shift in the player transfer market," according to Liam Napier of the NEW ZEALAND HERALD. The only question now is "whether this is a short or long term swing." France and England have "long been kingmakers when it comes time for All Blacks to cash in and depart New Zealand shores," whatever stage in career that may be. Marquee All Blacks can "still take their pick of multi-million dollar contracts that set families up for life." Increasingly, though, players are "grasping there is much more at play than the bottom line alone." Lifestyle, language and longevity are all "wider considerations." And in the coming years, for top-tier talent, it seems Japan "ticks more of those boxes than Europe." Set aside the money aspect, and Japan is "increasingly attractive because England and France are not always as they seem." Imports in Europe "are often asked to get up every week for 35 weeks." Over that length of time, the "physical nature of the European game takes its toll on forwards" while backs "find natural instincts stifled." Life in France, especially, is "challenging at first, too." Culture shock "can be very real." The European game holds "much more glamour" than Japan in terms of "history, prestige and quality" but few New Zealanders "play backyard footy aspiring to lift the Champions Cup" (NZ HERALD, 1/9).