Wallabies captain Michael Hooper has accepted a sabbatical deal to join Japanese team Toyota Verblitz next year on a six-month deal.
The 28-year-old, who will link up with former Waratahs assistant coach Simon Cron, Kieran Read and former All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, will not play for the Waratahs next year but will be available for Test duties as the Top League season is set to run in parallel with Super Rugby.
It’s understood that legendary All Blacks skipper Read and Hansen spoke to Hooper numerous times about joining the Top League club.
“This is a great opportunity for me to learn in a new rugby environment and develop a different perspective on the game,” Hooper said.
“I’m really excited in the direction of rugby in Australia both at a Super Rugby level and at the Wallabies too under Dave (Rennie).
“The Super Rugby AU competition this year has unearthed some really good young talent and they are all keeping me on my toes.
RA’s interim Chief Executive Rob Clarke said: “We’re incredibly supportive of Michael making this move in the first half of 2021.
“It’s a prudent decision, especially for someone who has been a devoted servant to the domestic game here in Australia for over 10 years now.
“While he will head overseas for the first six months of next year, Michael has made it abundantly clear how committed he is to Australian Rugby until at least the Rugby World Cup in 2023."
Hooper is in the middle of a five-year, $1.2 million per year deal with Australian rugby but appears to have triggered an agreement reached as part of the recent emergency pay deal allowing a select group to chase overseas deals as a way to recoup lost earnings during the COVID-19 crisis.
It’s understood To’omua and Haylett-Petty will also take up sabbatical deals in Japan in 2021.
Credit: Sydney Morning Herald