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All Black eager to test himself in Japan

INTERVIEW: Newly crowned World Rugby Player of the Year Ardie Savea said Friday that he wanted to “try something new” and test himself after moving to Japan’s big-spending league.

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The All Black loose forward has signed for the Steelers on a one-season deal that means he will not miss any games for his country.

Savea joins New Zealand teammate Brodie Retallick at the Kobe-based team and said he was “very excited” ahead of the Japan Rugby League One opener on December 9.

“There’s been a lot of positive things from the boys that have been coming into the country around the competition,” said the 30-year-old Savea.

“As a player that’s playing in New Zealand, that excites you to come here and give it a crack and try something new.

“You look at the competition and I guess the talent that’s across all teams is pretty special.”

Savea and Retallick are among a wave of All Blacks moving to Japan ahead of the new season, including captain Sam Cane, flyhalf Richie Mo’unga and fullback Beauden Barrett.

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The league also features several of the South Africa team that beat New Zealand in the World Cup Final in October.

Kobe finished last season ninth in the 12-team league and Savea is determined to help them perform better this time around.

“I like to challenge myself and apply myself,” he said.

“My aspiration here is to come to Kobe and give myself to the culture and to the club, to my team-mates and hopefully try to win a championship.”

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Retallick is returning for a second spell at Kobe, having played for the club from 2020 to 2021.

The lock, who has won 109 caps for the All Blacks, has been named co-captain and said he was glad to be joined by the “influential” Savea.

“I think he’s an inspiration to a lot of Kiwis and people from all around the world,” he said.

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