Eaton joins Kiwi exodus East
Wed, 10 Jul 2013 15:16
Hurricanes lock Jason Eaton will skip Taranaki's National Provincial Championship campaign to play the off-season in Japan.
The former All Black would not comment today other than to confirm he would spend six months with the NTT Shining Arcs at the end of the Super Rugby season.
It is unclear whether Eaton will return to the Hurricanes for next year's Super Rugby competition.
After 89 caps for the Hurricanes since his debut in 2006, Eaton will head to Ichikawa once the current campaign finishes against the Crusaders in Christchurch on Friday night.
The 14-test All Black's move comes at the end of a disappointing season.
After a strong 2012 season, he was the obvious incumbent and senior lock at the start of this season, alongside Jeremy Thrush.
Eaton has become highly regarded for his leadership within the young squad, but after starting 11 matches he was dropped from the match-day 22.
Thrush, who has played his way into the All Blacks, and James Broadhurst will start in the second row against the Crusaders, with Blade Thomson providing backup.
Eaton is one of a growing number of top players not taking part in the NPC but potentially returning for next year's Super Rugby competition.
Team-mate Faifili Levave is understood to be weighing his participation in the Wellington Lions campaign after the New Zealand Rugby Union denied his request to return to Japan in the off-season.
There are no such issues for Highlanders back Tamati Ellison, who will return to Ricoh in Japan, or team-mate Brad Thorn, who will sit out the next six months but return for Super Rugby in 2014.
Meanwhile, Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett said that the franchise was in a strong position as it looked to put together its squad for 2014, despite the absence of star players Beauden Barrett and Julian Savea.
Hammett told Fairfax NZ News: "There's no secret there are a few big names we still want to get nailed off, but that's part of this industry.
"They [discussions] have been very, very good. We'll see where we get to."
The Blues are believed to be chasing Barrett.
Asked if he was confident his pivot would stay, Hammett said: "I'm confident he's really passionate about the Hurricanes and what I really like about Beauden, as opposed to potentially dealing with some other players, is that he's all about 'How do I get better?'
"I like the fact he gives himself time to look back, get a view as to where the future of the team is and the wider direction of the franchise.
"I think it's fantastic. We don't get too many players who think as deeply as that," Hammett added.
Hammett said it was a reality that every franchise had to contemplate the loss of some key players at some point.
"You don't like to think about it, but they are realities, just like Cory Jane got injured before the season kicked off.
"It's the things you have to look at and think about continuously in a large squad," said Hammett.
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