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George Kruis expects more Premiership players to go to Japan

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GeordieFalcon
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Post by Rugby Fan Fri May 21, 2021 4:00 pm

When George Kruis made the life-changing decision to embark on a new career in Japan, taking himself out of the equation for England selection at the age of just 31, he did not consider himself as a trailblazer. The reasons behind his decision to opt for the brave new world of the Top League in Japan were old school desires to sample a new culture and create new memories before time ran out.

What has surprised the former Saracens lock, who has won 45 caps for England and one for the Lions in 2017, however is the number of phone-calls he has received recently from players from back home in the UK about life as a professional in Japan....

...Until now the vast majority of the overseas talent (around 95 per cent) has largely come from the southern hemisphere nations, yet Kruis believes it is inevitable that more will follow his footsteps from the Premiership as the profile of the Top League continues to grow. Wales back Hadleigh Parkes is his team-mate at the Wild Knights while Alex Goode spent this season with NEC Green Rockets while Freddie Burns joined Shokki Shuttles last year. Kruis expects more will follow.

“I know there will be more, more than there has been in the past,” said Kruis, who resides in Ota, a small city of a quarter of million people 50 miles northwest of Tokyo. I think the impact of Covid was a bit of a reality check for a few. In terms of the way maybe some will have been dealt with by clubs or taken a cut. It's a short enough career and I think that was just a bit of an eye opener for some.

“But also in terms of some people looking at their whole situation and thinking, ‘is it good time to, you know, enjoy a different experience?’ I guess a lot of people, not just in sport, are asking that question of themselves.”
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/rugby-union/2021/05/21/exclusive-george-kruis-interview-premiership-players-will-come/

It always surprised me that more English players didn't consider Japan. New Zealanders, Australians, Tongans, Fijians and Samoans are all roughly in the same time zone, if not the same hemisphere, as Japan, so their presence is understandable. However, you also see South Africans, Canadians and Americans out here too. Europeans have been slow on the uptake. James Haskell, Dave Walder and Shane Williams are some of the players I can recall, and only Haskell was playing for a top team. By all accounts, Freddie Burns didn't realize his team wasn't in the Top League until he had signed, because he assumed only the best teams would be hiring overseas players.



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Post by Soul Requiem Fri May 21, 2021 4:03 pm

English players don't play abroad all that much in general so it's not that surprising that even fewer consider Japan; Kruis has ultimately curtailed his England career and would probably have been selected for the Lions too were he still playing here.

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Post by GeordieFalcon Fri May 21, 2021 4:11 pm

Is that an English /British trait then...as its similar in football...few really go abroad.

You can list a handful over all the years...

Lineker, Mark Hughes, Gazza etc...but not floods of them.

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Post by PhilBB Fri May 21, 2021 4:18 pm

GeordieFalcon wrote:Is that an English /British trait then...as its similar in football...few really go abroad.

You can list a handful over all the years...

Lineker, Mark Hughes, Gazza etc...but not floods of them.

Isn't that because soccer wages in England have been either at the top, or close enough at the top to not matter, of the game? That's not going to be the case in rugby any longer.
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Post by Rugby Fan Fri May 21, 2021 4:31 pm

Soul Requiem wrote:English players don't play abroad all that much in general so it's not that surprising that even fewer consider Japan.
I think you are right.

Nevertheless, the first three English players to win European Player of the Year did so from France (Jonny Wilkinson, Steffon Armitage and Nick Abendanon). Wilkinson got into Toulon just before England introduced their selection policy, so he's an outlier, while also being one of the best examples of the advantages of a move overseas.

I thought more English players would come to Japan because you get the benefits of playing with Southern Hemisphere stars, with a healthy pay packet, which seems like the best of both worlds for a rugby experience. I genuinely think the penny just didn't drop for them or their agents. The fact Kruis has signed on for another year might make more players take note. As he says, the way clubs treated their players when the wolves were at the door, has probably led more to think about their own best interests.


Last edited by Rugby Fan on Fri May 21, 2021 4:37 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Post by BamBam Fri May 21, 2021 4:34 pm

The top players from the big 4 leagues in European football have generally stayed in their home leagues. The money in English football has attracted a few, but the real big names have just stayed at or been signed by Real Madrid / Barcelona / Bayern Munich / Juventus etc

It seems like a bit of a trend for young English players to move to other countries in search of game time which they aren't going to get at the top English clubs

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Post by Soul Requiem Fri May 21, 2021 4:42 pm

Rugby Fan wrote:
Soul Requiem wrote:English players don't play abroad all that much in general so it's not that surprising that even fewer consider Japan.
I think you are right.

Nevertheless, the first three English players to win European Player of the Year did so from France (Jonny Wilkinson, Steffon Armitage and Nick Abendanon). Wilkinson got into Toulon just before England introduced their selection policy, so he's an outlier, while also being one of the best examples of the advantages of a move overseas.

I thought more English players would come to Japan because you get the benefits of playing with Southern Hemisphere stars, with a healthy pay packet, which seems like the best of both worlds for a rugby experience.I genuinely think the penny just didn't drop for them or their agents. The fact Kruis has signed on for another year might make more players take note. As he says, the way clubs treated their players when the wolves were at the door, has probably led more to think about their own best interests.

The Armitage brothers are the only players to curtail their England careers by moving abroad; Delon was a bit of a loose cannon and didn't have the greatest reputation in the media.

Tuilagi is an indication of how things are for England players, even being crocked most of the time he's hot property but despite it being assumed he'd move to France he still stays in order to further his international ambitions. You might see the Simmonds brothers move at some point but unlikely anyone with real international prospects will.

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Post by Hazel Sapling Fri May 21, 2021 8:57 pm

It will always be players at the fringes of the England squad who are likely to leave. Those like Goode and Burns whose international ambitions are gone will be the main ones.

Japan is also a tough cultural fit and language barrier to break down. Some players (Nonu, Foden) would rather go play in the MLR and experience the USA where the pay is not as good but it is a simpler fit.

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Post by Brendan Fri May 21, 2021 11:50 pm

The Premership since the start of professialism has always paid the highest band of wages along with France.  With the really low cap that has been introduced (and it isn't a given it will go back up anytime soon) the league is no longer in the highest band.  This means squads have become weaker and imports are also getting weaker.  If the Premership ends up competing for the same players as the Pro14 offering the same amount of money you may also see less of those players going to the premiership.  It also means English players can be tempted to France and Japan.

It is still unclear what will happen to Japan and Japanese rugby.  There was talk of bringing the RC up to 6 teams but that has gone very quiet.  NZ & Oz would rather play half a season among themselves then turn Super Rugby into the Pacific Champions Cup and include Japan.  Without the international club competition the league will never be able to reach its potential.  I don't know why there isn't more of an effort pull the Pacific Region (Americas, East Aisa & Oceania) into a counter balance to Europe or Europe&Africa.  I don't know if they are afraid that Japan might eat their dinner but the pie doesn't look like growing with just the two of them.

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Post by Rugby Fan Sun May 23, 2021 7:08 am

Panasonic just beat Suntory to win this season's Top League. Kruis has won a title in his first season which makes him one of the few players, perhaps even the only player, to win both the Premiership and Top League.

Hadleigh Parkes also plays for Panasonic, and he helped bring out the best in a back line which features Matsuda at fly half, who has a good chance of claiming the Test jersey, and Fukuoka on the wing. This was Fukuoka's last game before he retires to study medicine. As his try today showed, he is still some player. He said an emotional goodbye in the post match interviews.

https://twitter.com/FreemanrugbyJPN/status/1396332699279773697

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Post by Rugby Fan Sun May 23, 2021 2:26 pm

Panasonic in blue, Suntory in yellow.


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