Carter moving to Japan

by AFP

New Zealand's Dan Carter will leave French Top14 outfit Racing 92 and sign a two-year contract with Japanese club Kobelco Steelers at the end of the season, French media reported on Saturday.

The 35-year-old two-time World Cup winner told French sports daily L'Equipe he wanted to be closer to his native New Zealand.

"It's been a very tough decision, to leave my new friends and all my teammates and go play for Kobe Steel," said Carter, the highest points scorer in Test match history, in an interview aired on Canal Plus on Saturday.

“But Japan is a very exciting place to be right now, and an exciting place to play."

"It's also only one flight away from New Zealand and the way the Japanese season is structured means I and my family will be able to spend much more time in New Zealand," said Carter who played 112 times for his nation.

"Rugby is going crazy in Japan and this is a very exciting challenge."

Carter also confirmed the move on his Instagram account, posting this picture with the caption: "Excited to announce I’ll be joining Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers rugby team in Japan for next season. These decisions are never easy but I must thank @racing92 for their support."

Kobelco Steelers are based in Kobe, and Carter's move will help raise the profile of the sport in Japan before the country host the 2019 World Cup.

Suffering from various niggling injuries Carter has only played four times so far this season.

"Now that my mind is made up, I'm determined to get over this knee injury because we want to win the Top14 and we want to win in Europe too," he said.

"I hope to be playing again soon."

Now 35 the three-time winner of Rugby's world player of the year Carter joined Racing in 2015, winning the prestigious Top 14 in his first season.

But the global icon was also caught up in a drawn-out cortisone use scandal dating from tests taken at the 2016 Top14 final. He was eventually exonerated.

In February, his image was further tarnished when he tested two-times over the legal alcohol limit and was dropped by his sponsor Land Rover.