Ellis joins Japan exodus
All Blacks scrumhalf Andy Ellis has joined the growing exodus to Japan, after it was confirmed he will play for club the Kobelco Steelers.
All Blacks scrumhalf Andy Ellis has joined the growing exodus to Japan, after it was confirmed he will play for club the Kobelco Steelers when the current Super Rugby season ends.
Ellis, 30, who played the most recent of his 26 Tests for New Zealand as a replacement in the 2011 World Cup Final, will miss New Zealand's National Provincial Championships this year and the start of the next Super Rugby season.
Ellis said his temporary move to Japan was not an indication he has given up on again playing for the All Blacks.
"This is certainly not a sign of my playing days in New Zealand coming to an end," the scrumhalf said in a statement on Friday.
"I am just fortunate to have the ability to play in Japan, which is something I've always wanted to do, and then return home to continue with the Crusaders.
"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."
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 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 and he fully deserves this opportunity to go and gain some international experience," Blackadder said.
"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.
"Andy has so much more to offer New Zealand, 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."
Scott Robertson, coach for the Canterbury NPC team, said they would miss Ellis' 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.