Rugby: All Blacks star Ardie Savea heading to Japan for post-World Cup sabbatical

All Blacks star Ardie Savea has confirmed he will take an offshore sabbatical after the Rugby World Cup in France next year.

As per the terms outlined the new four-year contract he signed with NZ Rugby last year, Savea will head to Japan to play in the lucrative Top League for the Kobelco Kobe Steelers at the end of 2023.

The arrangement - similar to those taken up by Beauden Barrett and Brodie Retallick, in recent years - means Savea, 29, will miss the entire Hurrricanes 2024 Super Rugby campaign.

He'll return to Aotearoa for the test series window in July, as well as the Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup.

"I'm excited to be joining the Kobelco Kobe Steelers after the 2023 rugby season," Savea said. "Although it's far away, it's nice to have clarity in what I'm doing and I think this change, for a short period of time, will do me and my family good.

"Playing in Japan is going to be an awesome experience and I’m ready to embrace their beautiful culture. I can’t wait to meet all the Kobe fans at the games and connect with everyone."

Through a rollercoaster 2022 test season, Savea's sublime form has been one of the few constants for the All Blacks.

The No.8 has shouldered an enormous onfield workload and will be a critical piece of the All Blacks quest to reclaim the World Cup, which begins in September.

Ardie Savea in action for the All Blacks
Ardie Savea in action for the All Blacks. Photo credit: Getty Images

"It is great news that Ardie is committing to NZ Rugby until the end of 2025," said All Blacks coach Ian Foster. "His leadership and form makes him a vital component of our planning.

"It is also great that the structure of this break away from New Zealand still enables him to be available for the entire 2024 All Blacks season."

Savea is contracted with the Hurricanes through the 2025 Super Rugby season.

"We're really excited for Ardie and his family to have this opportunity to play in Japan after the Rugby World Cup," said Hurricanes chief executive Avan Lee.

"We are behind him all the way with this decision and look forward to seeing him back in 2025.

"In the meantime, we still have the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season with Ardie to look forward to."

Join us for live updates of the All Blacks' northern tour, beginning October 29 against Japan