Ardie Savea

Ardie Savea is arguably one of the best players in the world
Photo: Getty Images.

All Blacks’ Ardie Savea embraces Japanese challenge

World Rugby Player of the Year, Ardie Savea, has embarked on a unique journey by signing a one-season deal with Japan’s Kobe Steelers.

Ardie Savea

Ardie Savea is arguably one of the best players in the world
Photo: Getty Images.

Newly crowned World Rugby player of the year Ardie Savea said Friday that he wanted to “try something new” and test himself after moving to Japan’s big-spending league.

The All Blacks loose forward has signed for Kobe Steelers on a one-season deal that means he will not miss any games for his country.

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Savea joins New Zealand team-mate Brodie Retallick at Kobe and said he was “very excited” ahead of the Japan Rugby League One opener on December 9.


“There’s been a lot of positive things from the boys that have been coming into the country around the competition,” said the 30-year-old Savea.

“As a player that’s playing in New Zealand, that excites you to come here and give it a crack and try something new.

“You look at the competition and I guess the talent that’s across all teams is pretty special.”

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Savea and Retallick are among a wave of All Blacks moving to Japan ahead of the new season, including captain Sam Cane, fly-half Richie Mo’unga and full-back Beauden Barrett.

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The league also features several of the South Africa team that beat New Zealand in the World Cup final in October.

Kobe finished last season ninth in the 12-team league and Savea is determined to help them perform better this time around.

“I like to challenge myself and apply myself,” he said.

“My aspiration here is to come to Kobe and give myself to the culture and to the club, to my team-mates and hopefully try to win a championship.”


Retallick is returning for a second spell at Kobe, having played for the club from 2020 to 2021.

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The lock, who has won 109 caps for the All Blacks, has been named co-captain and said he was glad to be joined by the “influential” Savea.

“I think he’s an inspiration to a lot of Kiwis and people from all around the world,” he said.

© Agence France-Presse