ENGLAND lock George Kruis and Welsh centre Hadleigh Parkes have signed to play for Panasonic Wild Knights in next year’s Japanese Top League, the club announced on Monday.
Kruis, capped 45 times for his country and once for the British and Irish Lions, featured at last year’s World Cup but coach Eddie Jones mainly used the 30-year-old as a substitute in England’s run to the final.
New Zealand-born Parkes, 32, was an ever-present for the Welsh side that lost in the semi-finals to eventual champions South Africa.
For the Scarlets player, the decision effectively means an end to his international career and he told the BBC that moving to Japan “certainly wasn’t a quick or easy decision”.
“But when you have to weigh up your family’s future, it is an incredible opportunity for us and we are really excited about what lies ahead,” said Parkes in his BBC online column.
Welsh rules mean someone playing outside Wales can only be selected for the national team if he has 60 caps or is uncapped. Parkes has 29.
Kruis, on the other hand, refused to see his move from Saracens to Japan as calling time on his international career.
England can select players from overseas clubs in “exceptional circumstances”, and he also remains in contention for next year’s Lions tour of South Africa.
“I would like to think there is plenty left in the legs and this is definitely not an England retirement,” Kruis told British media.
Saracens have also been relegated to England’s second division following a points deduction for salary cap breaches.
“It is hard to overstate what George has given to the club,” Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall said in a statement.
“George grew up at Saracens and it has been a pleasure watching him achieve so much for our club, his country and the Lions.”
Kruis and Parkes are following the well-trodden route of a short spell in Japan towards the end of their careers — a path taken by some of the legends of the game.
Former All Blacks fly-half Dan Carter was perhaps the highest profile of these, recently announcing he was leaving the Kobelco Steelers after taking them to the 2018-19 Top League title.
The next Japanese Top League season is slated to begin in January after the coronavirus forced the cancellation of the 2020 edition.
The Panasonic Wild Knights, coached by former Wallabies coach Robbie Deans, won three straight Top League titles from 2014-2016.