Crusaders and Canterbury halfback Andy Ellis has committed to the Crusaders for the 2015 Super Rugby season but he will play a season in Japan for the Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers first.
Ellis said he was excited about the opportunity to play in a new environment and a new competition for a season but remained committed to his teams here in New Zealand.
"I love playing for Canterbury and the Crusaders and I would love the chance to represent New Zealand again if the opportunity ever came up," said Ellis.
"This is certainly not a sign of my playing days in New Zealand coming to an end, I am just fortunate to have the ability to play rugby in Japan, which is something I've always wanted to do, and then return home to continue with the Crusaders," Ellis explained.
Ellis said he was particularly keen to play for the Kobelco Steelers having spent time in Kobe in the past when his parents lived and worked there for three years.
"My family and I just love the city and the Japanese culture so we are really excited about the adventure we have in front of us."
Crusaders Head Coach Todd Blackadder said Ellis went to Japan with their blessing but the Crusaders are thrilled to be retaining the talent and experience that Ellis offers.
"Andy has been such a loyal servant to New Zealand rugby and he fully deserves this opportunity to go and gain some international experience. We are fully supportive of Andy's decision to play in Japan, but especially pleased that he's committed to returning to the Crusaders at the end of his season in Kobe," Blackadder said.
"Andy has so much more to offer New Zealand rugby so it is fantastic that he continues to see his future here. He is a core member of the Crusaders team and we are grateful that we will continue to reap the benefits of his experience, energy and personality both on and off the field."
Head Coach for the Canterbury ITM Cup team, Scott Robertson, said the Canterbury team would miss Andy's input this year but hoped he would be back in red and black again in the future.
"Andy is a really influential member of this team and just such a pleasure to have around, so obviously we are sorry not to have him this season. However we can fully understand and appreciate Andy's decision to take this opportunity for a stint overseas and the door will always be open for a return to the Canterbury team," Robertson said.
Ellis's contract with the Kobelco Steelers begins at the conclusion of Super Rugby and he is likely return to Christchurch in February 2015, which may see him miss the early stages of the Super Rugby competition.