All Black loose forward heads to Japan
NEWS: Highlanders loose forward Elliot Dixon is set to join Japan Top League side Ricoh Black Rams at the conclusion of the Super Rugby season, essentially withdrawing his name from All Blacks contention.
According to the Black Rams official website, three-time All Black Dixon will be joined by current Crusaders midfielder Tim Bateman, Waikato lock Jacob Skeen – both former Maori All Blacks – and Waratahs utility Bryce Hegarty.
Dixon last represented the All Blacks in 2016, and has since been usurped by the likes of Vaea Fifita in the All Blacks pecking order, though it’s possible he had a chance at re-selection in June following a slew of back row injuries to New Zealand players.
All Blacks captain Kieran Read is set to miss the national side's June test series against France as he recovers from back surgery, while Dixon's Highlanders teammate Liam Squire likely won't be available for the All Blacks' first test of the year in early June after suffering a broken thumb.
Dixon will leave New Zealand as an accomplished flank having represented both the All Blacks and Maori All Blacks. He is on track to reach 80 Super Rugby appearances – all with the Highlanders – by the end of the season.
Bateman, 30, will enjoy a third stint in Japan, having spent three seasons with the Fukuoka-based Coca-Cola Red Sparks in between his time with the Hurricanes and Crusaders.
Bateman previously represented New Zealand at the Under-19 and U21 level, and captained the Maori All Blacks for their North American Tour in 2013.
Former international players to represent the Ricoh Black Rams include Ma'a Nonu, Eroni Clarke, James Haskell and Stephen Larkham.
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