All Blacks star flyhalf Dan Carter yesterday denied speculation he had signed a deal to play Japanese club rugby, but did not rule out the prospect of a foray into the big-money league.
The 31-year-old, one of the highest-profile players in world rugby, is under contract with New Zealand until 2015, but has a clause allowing him to take a sabbatical built into the agreement.
Carter dismissed suggestions he had already signed with a Japanese club, but conceded his management had tested potential interest in both Europe and Japan.
“[They] are just throwing it out there, and talking to a few clubs and players,” he told reporters after training with his Super 15 club the Canterbury Crusaders.
“I am nowhere near signing any deal or getting closer to deciding what I am going to do, or whether I take my sabbatical or not. I am still not any closer to making a decision,” he added.
Japan national team coach Eddie Jones told Fairfax Media last month that Carter could command a salary of more than US$1 million if he played a stint in Japan.
While Carter would not be eligible for the All Blacks while playing in Japan, he could return to the New Zealand side after a spell in the Top League, following in the footsteps of center Ma’a Nonu.
Carter signed with French club Perpignan in the 2008-2009 season, but lasted only five matches before being sidelined by injury.
However, the injury risk is much lower in Japan, where the style of rugby is less physical than in European competitions.
All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw also has a sabbatical clause built into his New Zealand Rugby Union contract, which he is currently exercising to sit out most of the Super 15 season and travel the world.