Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: 'Special project' will recommence this year in Japan

Isaia Toeava. Photo / Getty Images.
Isaia Toeava. Photo / Getty Images.

All Black and Blues utility Isaia Toeava has signed to play rugby for the next two years in Japan.

Toeava will play for the Canon Eagles in Tokyo once he completes his rehabilitation from his repeat hip surgery. The 26-year-old played only two games for the Blues this season before he was hurt, ending his 75-match Super rugby career.

His career began in controversy when he was picked as a "special project" for the All Blacks in 2005 after playing just eight games of provincial rugby in a year when he was picked as the IRB under-19 player of the year. Toeava had the ability to play in every position in the backline and ended up as a gifted utility on the All Black reserve bench.

He made his debut for the Blues in 2006 and while he played most positions in the backline he found his niche at fullback.

"Now I am ready for a new adventure and even though it's hard to leave behind friends and family, I am excited about the chance to experience a different culture playing rugby in a new country," he said.

Toeava played 38 tests including two World Cups. He follows fellow Blues rep Jerome Kaino to Japan.

Blues midfield back Ma'a Nonu played in Japan during the off-season while Orene Ai'i has answered a late season SOS to help the Blues and former fullback Mils Muliaina has hinted at a similar return if needed.

- NZ Herald

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