All Blacks captain Kieran Read has announced he’s joining Japanese club Toyota Verblitz following the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

“Every young rugby player in New Zealand dreams of the opportunities I have had to represent the All Blacks and the Crusaders, and I know I’ll look back at the end of the year with a great deal of pride to have worn those jerseys for as long as I have,” Read said.

“My family and I are looking forward to an overseas experience and Japan presents an awesome opportunity to immerse ourselves in Japanese culture as part of the Toyota club.

“I feel the time is right to make this announcement on my playing future, so that I can focus my efforts on the season ahead.”

Read made his All Blacks debut in 2008 against Scotland and became a regular test starter the following year.

In his 118 international appearances, Read has scored 25 tries, second only to his predecessor – Richie McCaw – in the All Blacks forwards’ all-time leading try score list.

The 33-year-old has won two Rugby World Cups with the All Blacks (2011 and 2015) and was captain for New Zealand’s drawn series against the British and Irish Lions in 2017.

He became the All Blacks’ 66th captain in 2012 when he lead the team against Italy in McCaw’s absence and became the full-time leader when McCaw retired in 2015.

All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “On behalf of New Zealand Rugby and the All Blacks, I’d like to acknowledge the fantastic contribution that Reado has made to our game.

“His performances on the park speak for themselves: he’s played 118 tests and started 111 of them, which is an outstanding achievement.

“His contribution off the park has been just as impressive. He’s developed into a fantastic leader, who has the utmost respect of all his peers.

“What he has achieved has been remarkable, and its fair to say that he is one of the greats of our game who has enhanced the legacy of not only the All Blacks jersey but also the Crusaders jersey. We wish him, Bridget and the kids all the very best in their next rugby chapter.”

Read was named World Rugby Player of the Year in 2013 and New Zealand Rugby Player of the Year in 2010 and 2013.

He made his Super Rugby debut for the Crusaders in 2007 against the Blues.

He’s won three Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders, the first in 2008 and then back-to-back titles in 2017 and 2018.

Although from Papakura, Read was a member of the Canterbury provincial side from 2007 up until 2017.

In 2017, however, he signed with his hometown province – Counties Manuakau (he’s yet to play a NPC match for the region).

Read, along with a myriad of current All Blacks, have been linked to overseas deals for months – including in January when there were differing reports he was to play in France and Japan.

(Source:Radio New Zealand)

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