It's no secret Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby team first five-eighth Lincoln McClutchie needs to improve his tactical kicking and goalkicking if he is to secure a Super Rugby contract in future.
The 2016 and '17 New Zealand Secondary Schools representative boasts a running game that can unlock most defences in the Mitre 10 Cup. McClutchie finished the latest Magpies season with 158 metres gained from 64 carries, 24 defenders beaten, seven clean breaks and 12 try assists.
But until he improves his goalkicking - McClutchie had 19 successes from 34 attempts for a 56 per cent success rate this season - and his tactical kicking he is unlikely to join his 2017 national title-winning Hastings Boys' High School first XV teammates Devan Flanders, Folau Fakatava, Danny Toala and Kini Naholo at Super Rugby level.
However his six-month contract with the NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes in the Japanese Top League has the potential to fast track those improvements.
While with the Red Hurricanes, McClutchie, 20, will have the opportunity to play and train alongside former Highlanders first five-eighth Marty Banks and receive coaching from former All Blacks and Hurricanes first five-eighth and halfback Jon Preston who is an assistant coach to fellow former All Blacks loosie Mike Brewer.
McClutchie left this week to prepare for the January to May Top League comp and will return to the Bay for the Maddison Trophy rounds in club rugby and the Magpies 2020 campaign.
"The opportunity provides Lincoln with an ideal chance to continue developing and working on his rugby while the chance to experience another culture and lifestyle will enable him to return to our environment a vastly improved and more mature player. Training and playing alongside a player like Marty Banks can only be of benefit to Lincoln and in turn the Magpies when he returns,'' Hawke's Bay Rugby Union CEO Jay Campbell said.
Docomo is located in Osaka, a city of just over 2.5 million people, and a city known for its love of rugby.
"Hawke's Bay club rugby has benefited from having a number of promising players from Docomo playing in our premier club competition over the past few years and it's exciting that Lincoln becomes the first Magpie to head in the other direction which can only be of benefit to him as I know how much he wants to prove himself and secure a Super Rugby gig."
McClutchie is expected to be Banks' deputy but given the limited number of foreign players on the Red Hurricanes roster he should receive plenty of game time.
Hawke's Bay has another link to the club with former Magpies front rower Greg Fleming the Docomo forwards coach.
"Having Flem around will be great for Lincoln as he will help him settle in and he can keep a watchful eye on him as he transitions into life in Japan. Lincoln is such a resourceful and hardworking young kid and I'm positive this experience will be the making of him," Campbell added.
"A large part of our role is to promote as many of our players to Super Rugby. In this instance, with Lincoln, it's a promotion to a great opportunity where he can train as a professional for six months and work fulltime on his rugby in Japan. I'm really happy for Lincoln and I look forward to his return and seeing the growth in him both as a player and also a more confident young man," Magpies head coach Mark Ozich said.
McClutchie will be one of two current Magpies playing in the 2020 Top League. Lock Tom Parsons will turn out for the Toshiba Brave Lupus who are coached by former Crusaders mentor and All Blacks captain Todd Blackadder.
The pair are expected to provide major boosts to their respective clubs, Tamatea and Central, when they return to the Bay in May.