English rugby player, George Kruis to move to Japan at end of season

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England and Saracens lock George Kruis will join Japanese Top League side Panasonic Wild Knights on a one-year contract at the end of the season.

The 30-year-old British and Irish Lion has been at Sarries, who were relegated to the Championship for salary cap breaches, for 11 years.

Kruis told BBC Radio 5 live “this is not international retirement”.

Kruis said it had been a difficult decision but that he was “extremely excited” about the move.

The Rugby Football Union does not select English players based overseas other than in “exceptional circumstances” but earlier this year said it would not rule out England selection for Saracens players who move abroad.

Kruis told BBC Radio 5 live he had “spoken to his coaches” at international level and made it “nice and clear what my plans are”.

Asked if he would only rejoin Saracens if he returned to England, Kruis replied: “Yes. It would have to be.”

In a separate statement, Kruis said: “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 [former Australia coach] 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.”

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Kruis, whose contract comes with the option to extend for another year, is not the only player moving from Britain to Japan.

Wales centre Hadleigh Parkes is set to join the Wild Knights too, while former England fly-half Freddie Burns is going to Shokki Shuttles.

Kruis has made almost 200 appearances for Sarries and has won 45 England caps since making his international debut in 2014, including an appearance in last year’s World Cup final.

England number eight Billy Vunipola has already confirmed he will stay at Allianz Park along with fellow internationals Jamie George and Elliot Daly, while Maro Itoje and Mako Vunipola are yet to commit another season to the side.

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