Another All Black is set to spend a season in Japan, according to reports out of New Zealand.
Wellington and Hurricanes halfback TJ Perenara is on the cusp of inking a deal with a Top League side according to Stuff.
Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick spent the 2020 season in Japan until the competition was called off due to the coronavirus pandemic. Retallick is set to return next season while Beauden Barrett will also be making the move over.
Perenara, a former Super Rugby teammate of Barrett's, is reportedly close to signing with the NTT DoCoMo Red Hurricanes, a side that currently employs NZ cult hero Marty Banks as well as former Chief Tom Marshall.
The Red Hurricanes have a considerably smaller budget than the likes of Retallick's Kobelco Steelers and Barrett's Suntory Sungoliath, with Perenara set to be their biggest name on the ledger next season.
The 2021 Top League will likely be the last under the current structure, with a revamped competition set to take over in 2022. The final table next year will decide which divisions each team plays in moving forward, which could force a number of sides to stack their squads for the coming season.
Neither the Hurricanes nor Perenara's agent have confirmed a move for the 28-year-old as yet.
Perenara is currently the All Blacks' second-choice halfback, although he's pushed Aaron Smith in recent years. Perenara, Smith and Brad Weber have all been selected for this month's Bledisloe Cup series.
Should Perenara make the move to Japan next year, he'll miss the entirety of Super Rugby Aotearoa but likely still be available for the mid-year test matches.
Earlier this year, NZR general manager professional rugby, Chris Lendrum, said that more top All Blacks were having flexible arrangements built into their contracts – including sabbaticals.
"It allows our top players to refresh in a different rugby environment but remain committed to New Zealand Rugby which, in the long term, is great for both parties," he said.
A Japan sojourn for Perenara would mark the first time that a non-first choice All Blacks had been granted a break from rugby in New Zealand.